Tony Martin arrives at the Vuelta a España having raced just twice, in the Olympic road race and time trial, since his Tour de France abandonment at the completion of stage 9. The reigning world time trial champion suffered a heavy fall during stage one and fractured his left-hand schaphoid. Martin continued for another eight days before finally succumbing to the injury following the stage nine time trial - where he finished a disappointing 12th place.
Martin arrived at the Olympics with the hopes of securing a medal in the time trial. He rode for his German team captain, André Griepel in the road race and once his pace setting duties were complete, he pulled out so he could focus on recovering for the time trial. While his chances of beating Bradley Wiggins seemed unlikely, he took confidence with his second place and subsequent silver medal.
"This silver medal is more important to me than three gold. After all the setbacks this year, I'm happy with second place," he said shortly after his race. "This year is really full of stories. But overall I am pleased with the happy ending. Especially as the season is not over, I take the momentum from here. At the World Cup I will defend my title."
Now Martin arrives at the start of the Vuelta with his injury almost completely healed. He is still experiencing discomfort during hard efforts out of the saddle but his ambitions for this race differ enormously from the Tour. He’s in Spain to gauge the team’s cohesion in the team time trial and to test himself in the individual TTs.
"I focus particularly on the team time trial and the long individual time trial. We [the team] will try to test the route to identify the key points and prepare well," Martin said on his team site.
"I will prepare the best for my title defense. My hand is getting better. Only with hard sprints it hurts a little. It’s been a pretty slow return to normal with but now my left hand can function properly. This gives me more security on the bike."
Riding back in a support role is of no concern to Martin who has in the past juggled his general classification hopes with the job of leading-out Mark Cavendish in the sprints at the Tour. With his team supporting him over the year, he is happy to give back as he looks to acquiring a second world time trial title.
"I am happy in the next three weeks to support the team and repay their efforts over the season. Now I can give something back," he on his team site.