By Jean-François Quénet in Amilly
Finishing the inaugural time trial of Paris-Nice in fourth place ahead of the likes of David Millar, Joost Posthuma and Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin went on stage to collect the white jersey of best young rider. "I'm very happy with that, it's good for the team," the young German commented. "We're going to defend this jersey but I don't know about my climbing ability at the end of Paris-Nice because this is really my first big race of the year. We're only in March."
Martin stated Team Columbia-Highroad has other ambitions with Mark Renshaw in the sprints and Maxime Monfort for general classification. "This will be my first time being the team's sprinter with a lead-out, I almost never experienced it in French teams," said Renshaw, who previously rode for Française des Jeux and Crédit Agricole where he became a very good lead-out man himself at the service of Thor Hushovd.
Renshaw got picked by Columbia for the same job of opening the road for Mark Cavendish, something he did successfully twice at the Tour of California after finishing third himself in the first sprint because the Brit had lost contact with his wheel. Stages two and three are set to be for sprinters and not many of them have lined up in the "race to the sun", whose course and speed is known for being too demanding for those who prepare for the Classics. Renshaw has identified Mirco Lorenzetto, Heinrich Haussler, Gert Steegmans and Jurgen Roelandts as his main rivals for the sprints.
"I have ambitions for GC," Monfort confirmed. "I've made the top-10 before, in stage races like the Dauphiné or the Tour of the Basque Country and I'm also ready to take the risk of losing a good GC position if it results in winning a stage." Columbia's Belgian recruit has reconnoitered the crucial Friday and Saturday stages. "Yes, Paris-Nice is my first goal of the year."