It’s a question Tony Martin is growing used to hearing – 2015, after all, promises to be the Year of the Hour Record. With four serious attempts already pencilled into the calendar, the expectation is that it’s simply a matter of when – rather than if – the triple world time trial champion decides to throw his hat into the ring.
Indeed, Martin intimated as much during the off-season, though when pressed at the Etixx-QuickStep training camp in Calpe, he was careful not to paint himself into a corner. An attempt seems likely at some point in 2015 but as yet there is no firm inkling of when or where, and the German insisted that the planning was still in its infancy.
“For the moment we speak about the one hour record but there are a lot of things we have to make really clear,” Martin hold Cyclingnews. “A lot of partners have to be involved. The discussion is not finished yet and the timeline is not made. I think we still need time to fix everything and then we will announce the plans.”
At this juncture, and particularly given his ambitions on the road through the early part of the season, it seems extremely unlikely that Martin’s attempt will precede that of Bradley Wiggins, currently pencilled in for London in June.
Between them, Wiggins, Rohan Dennis, Alex Dowsett and Jack Bobridge ought to push the record well past Matthias Brändle’s current mark of 51.852km and beyond the reach of all bar a handful of rouleurs. Martin does not possess the track experience of that quartet and he was unsure of how much of his year he will need to be ring-fenced in order to adapt to the boards.
“These are all things we are still speaking about. I really don’t know when we will do it or how I will prepare. So first we will speak and then we will announce,” said Martin, who added that his interest in the hour record had only been stoked once the UCI recast the regulations last year and allowed time trial bikes. In contrast to Fabian Cancellara, attempting the so-called Athlete’s Hour was not an attractive proposition.
“It’s come more and more in focus since they changed the rules. Before I was not thinking about it so much to be honest,” Martin said.
Tackling the hour record could also present Martin with an opportunity to avenge his defeat to Wiggins at the Worlds time trial in Ponferrada. During the post-race press conference, the German was already looking ahead to a re-match in Richmond in 2015, only for Wiggins to confirm moments later that his road career will effectively come to an end after this year’s Paris-Roubaix. In that context, one imagines that the prospect of overhauling a new mark by Wiggins would only add to the hour record’s lustre for Martin.
“It’s always nice to have the good contenders around you otherwise it gets boring but I have to accept this,” Martin said of Wiggins’ expected absence from Richmond. “He has the goal now on the track for the Olympics and I totally understand him and there are still a lot of other guys who are very good. It’s not just about Bradley Wiggins and I think also Cancellara will come back for the time trial Worlds. It will be interesting for sure.”
Olympics and the Tour de France
In the longer term, Martin has designs on another of Wiggins’ titles, the Olympic Games time trial. A silver medallist in London in 2012, Martin is aware that next year in Rio is perhaps his final chance to be Olympic champion – he will be 35 by the time Tokyo 2020 comes around. The word from Brazil is that the course is a hilly one, although Martin has yet to examine the parcours in any particular detail.
“It’s a little bit hilly but I haven’t seen it properly yet. For sure, when you know the course and you know there’s a big climb on it, then you put the focus a little bit more on the mountains, just like you put the focus on the flat,” he said. “The preparation always changes with the course.”
Before that, of course, Martin has a similarly important rendezvous in Utrecht on July 4 of this year. Since Christian Prudhomme took over the reins as Tour de France director, the traditional opening day time trial has often been discarded and four of the last seven Tours have begun with a road stage. 2015, however, sees the race begin with a 13.7km time trial and a glaring opportunity for Martin to claim the first maillot jaune of his career.
“I don’t know anything about the course but the first time trial is so important because it’s a chance for me to get the yellow,” Martin said. “That’s the biggest goal for sure and along with the Worlds at the end of the year.”
Martin’s early season will see him tackle the Dubai Tour, Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice, with a second overall victory at the Race to the Sun a particular objective. Indeed, Martin’s 4th place finish at last year’s Tour de Suisse and his solo victory in the Vosges during the following month’s Tour de France have encouraged him to be ambitious in the week-long stage races he targets, albeit with a caveat.
“It always depends on the parcours. I think I have no chance when there’s no time trialling or where there are super steep hilly stages,” he said. “I think I can stay with the best but I can’t make the difference, that’s the truth. But when there’s a time trial, I should be always able to go for GC.
“Also what I did in the Tour de Suisse told me that I was also able to go really good in the mountains. It also gives me a lot of motivation for the years to come. It showed me that I am still able to do this and I already won also Paris-Nice and I really want to repeat this now.”
Like so many strong rouleurs, the early years of Martin’s career saw repeated speculation that he might one day develop into a contender in the Grand Tours, but his 35th-place finish at the 2009 Tour remains the high-water mark of his three-week career. Now 29 years of age, Martin has all but conceded that he is unlikely to make the kind of dramatic transformation that Bradley Wiggins underwent at a similar point in his career – before Rio, certainly, Martin has no intention of radically altering his approach.
“For at least the next two or three years, I won’t do that,” he said. “After that we’ll see, but the chance that I’ll go for it again is not too high.”