By Shane Stokes
Irish rider Daniel Martin could become the latest rider from the VC La Pomme-Marseille team to secure a pro contract following some strong performances in recent weeks. Last Sunday he raced to overall victory in the Tour de Savoie, starting the final day 14th overall but then seizing yellow with a dominant performance in the mountains.
The 20 year old Irishman attacked on the final climb of the Col du Glandon, shedding the other contenders and reeling in and dropping lone leader Dalivier Ospina (Centre Mondial du Cyclisme - UCI). He hit the finish line 1 minute and 26 seconds clear, with Ospina's team-mate Haijun Ma a further 15 seconds back in third. Martin ended the race 28 seconds clear of Ma, with Ospina 37 seconds down.
Martin's last stage race success was in the 2004 Junior Tour of Wales, but strong performances in recent weeks meant that he went to the Tour de Savoie aiming for a big performance. He rode well in the 1.2 ranked Paris - Mantes on April 29th, was fourth overall and placed fifth on two stages in the Vuelta al Bidasoa, and then won the hot spot sprints jersey and finished 12th overall in the Tour de Chablais.
After that he went to the important Ronde d'Isard stage race and also rode strongly there, winning the King of the Mountains classification, finishing second on two tough mountain stages and placing fourth overall.
Martin was born in England but declared for Ireland prior to last season. His father is former GB professional Neil Martin; he was eligible for a green jersey due to the Irish nationality of his mother Maria, who is the sister of Irish star Stephen Roche. He is the first cousin of Crédit Agricole rider Nicolas Roche.
The priority now is to get a professional contract for 2008. "I had an offer and could have turned pro last year, but I think it was a bit too soon," he said. "I didn't think I was ready. I wanted to stay where I was and win races this season."
Martin will be back in action next Thursday when he lines out in the 2.2 ranked Ronde de l'Oise. He is currently taking a break from racing and is doing a training camp with his VC La Pomme squad, but will pin on a number again for the four-day event.