Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) may head into the Vuelta a España with a relaxed outlook on the race but the Irishman is aware that he ranks amongst the contenders for a top ten placing on GC. However, with the race just days away he has targeted a stage win and admitted that a top ten finish overall is no more than a potential goal.
“I’m not going to put my hand up and say I’m team leader because I’ve never raced in a grand tour for GC before. Obviously I’m in good shape so I’ll try and capitalize on that in the first week of the race and try and go for a stage. If I’m still going well and still at the front, then we’ll see. But it would be silly of me to have really lofty ambitions,” Martin told Cyclingnews.
Martin’s attitude mirrors that of Tom Danielson ahead of this year’s Tour de France. The American went into his debut Tour admitting privately that he was in his best form, but publicly he talked about taking things ‘day-by-day’, even though before the race, manager Jonathan Vaughters had already earmarked him as the team’s best placed weapon for an attack on the top ten.
“Jonathan has said to me that it would be interesting to see what I could do on GC and I’m going into it with a focus of doing as well as I can,” Martin said.
“I’m just going to try and do both, but I’ve not really thought too much about ambitions. If my form is good I’ll be near the front.”
And Martin’s form certainly seems to be improving. A stage in the Tour of Poland led to his coach telling him he was in better form that at this point last year, something he will try and utilise out on Spanish roads.
“To be fair it’s probably the grand tour that suits me because a lot of the hard stages are in the second week and I’m confident that I’ll be relatively fresh on those stages.”
In spite of that optimism, the Vuelta is very much a trial for Martin’s ambitions as a GC rider in the future. Having competed in two grand tours in the past two years, he has performed modestly, never finishing inside the top ten on GC, and with a handful of breakaway rides as highlights.
“The question mark is over that third week. For me as far as the critical stages go, there’s that block of four stages in the middle week. I’m sure there will be some surprises in the final week and obviously fatigue will come into play too.”
Perhaps what may hold Martin back from a GC bid will be the calibre of rider at this year’s Vuelta. While Danielson had both the fortune and to some degree foresight to keep out of crashes that marred this year’s Tour de France, it has meant that a number of already proven GC threats will line up in Spain.
Bradley Wiggins, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Andreas Klöden will all be looking to make amends, while the Geox-TMC duo of Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre – two men with Vuelta pedigree whose squad was not invited to the Tour – will also start.
“It’s a massive race in itself and whoever wins it will be a big rider in his own right. It’s been raised a level by what happened at the Tour but I’ve not really looked at the start list at all. I’m quite relaxed and then once the race starts I’ll just take it day by day. Maybe that’s not the best preparation but I’m just concentrating on recovering from Poland at the moment.”
Martin’s teammate Christophe Le Mével will also be looking to make an impression on the race. Having come close to pulling on the maglia rosa at the Giro in May he will co-lead the team’s potential GC ambitions. But as far as Martin is concerned Garmin will be looking to bring their successful aggressive approach from the Tour to the Vuelta.
“We’ll definitely send a well-balanced team to the race. It’s a race where we can perform well in every stage, like at the Tour de France. With Christophe as well we’ve got two riders potentially competing for top ten on GC. It’s going to be huge having someone like him with me everyday.”