Irish champ Martin back for Amstel Gold

By Shane Stokes Having pulled out of Paris-Nice due to illness, Daniel Martin and his Garmin...

Tour debut is main target

By Shane Stokes

Having pulled out of Paris-Nice due to illness, Daniel Martin and his Garmin Slipstream team have decided to delay his competitive return for two more weeks. The Irish pro was originally pencilled in to ride the Vuelta al País Vasco, which begins this Monday, but now he is likely to resume racing in the Amstel Gold Classic on Sunday April 19.

Martin feels that he has recovered from his illness, but believes it would be counter-productive to dig deep before having good race form. "I have decided to delay my comeback until Amstel," he told Cyclingnews yesterday. "Basque just came a bit too quickly. With the bacterial problem having affected me since January, I had basically spent 6-7 weeks not training. My fitness levels are not really up to one of the hardest races of the season... I thought it was better to prepare and be at 100 percent rather than struggle round in what is more often than not a wet race."

The 22-year-old Irish national champion had a very impressive debut season last year, winning the Route du Sud, placing fourth in the Tour of Britain and taking a number of other good results. This season started well with a third overall in the Tour of the Mediterranean plus the best young rider award, but his ambition of riding well in Paris-Nice was derailed when he had a sudden loss of form.

He withdrew from the race prior to the start of stage three, saying at the time that the team were fully supportive of his decision. While the Tour of the Mediterranean result was an impressive one, he said that his condition had been fluctuating for quite a while.

"It's hard to explain what I had," he said. "It's a really common problem but of course more apparent because I was trying to race. I had a similar thing twice last year but obviously not as extreme. I asked the doc for a basic round up [of what was going wrong]. I had a low immune system and bad bacteria outnumbering my good bacteria... almost like a virus, but not exactly.

"I'm just lucky to have someone with the knowledge and skills to cure me. Otherwise I could have ridden at 80 percent for the whole season."

Martin is not part of the team plans for the Giro d'Italia but, all going well, could find himself riding an even bigger race this summer. "I am on the short list for the Tour," he confirmed. "I just have to stay healthy now. All this training is actually beneficial as I will be very fresh come June and July."

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