The 2009 season brought some important results for Irish rider Dan Martin, with third in the Tour of the Mediterranean, second in the Volta a Catalunya, fifth in the GP Ouest France and eighth in the Giro di Lombardia, and showed that he is making strong progress.
Martin ended the season 35th in the world rankings, just four places off that of Lance Armstrong, and edged into the top 40 ahead of riders such as Vincenzo Nibali, Carlos Sastre, Tom Boonen, Bradley Wiggins and namesake Tony Martin. That’s not bad at all for a 23-year-old second-year pro.
That progression has ensured the continued interest in him by his Garmin Transition team and, earlier this month, the team announced that it had extended his contract until the end of 2012.
General manager Jonathan Vaughters is excited by the climber, even if he doesn’t yet know what to expect from him . "With Dan you still have got to wait and see where his talent goes – is he a GC rider for three-week Tours, is he a future winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, or is he more of a one week Dauphiné Libéré rider?" he said to Cyclingnews.
"It is still a bit undetermined at the moment…he has only done one three week Tour. But do I think that Dan Martin is going to be one of the biggest names in the sport in two or three years? Absolutely."
Martin’s strong GP Ouest France illustrated that promise, and served to boost his morale prior to the Vuelta. He said after the Plouay race that he thought he could have won, but he was slightly overgeared and was passed by the victor Simon Gerrans and his other breakaway companions with less than 75 meters to go.
He was nonetheless motivated by the result and headed to the Spanish Tour aiming for a strong performance. However, he never really rode to his full capabilities, and had to be content with 14th on a stage and 53rd overall.
"The Vuelta, his first ever three-week Tour, was a bit of a hard experience for him," said Vaughters. "But he bounced right back from it and was one of the strongest riders at the Tour of Lombardy."
Martin was actually due to make his Grand Tour debut in the 2009 Tour, and had travelled to Monaco prior to the start. However with just two days to go, he was forced to drop out due to tendonitis of the knee.
All going to plan, he'll get his chance in the next edition of the race. "In theory, the course of the 2010 Tour de France is perfect for Dan," said Vaughters. "He is unpredictable, though…I could see him finishing in the top ten of the race, or I could see him as just a very valuable ally for Christian in the mountains.
"At this point in time, we don't know what to expect as he is very young. Even for his age, he is physiologically very young…he is a late bloomer, if you will. So it is hard to tell where he is going to end up. But let's put it this way: every time Team Garmin has done the Tour de France, we have ended up producing the surprise of the race. I don't think it is going to be any different in 2010. Maybe that will be Dan Martin, maybe that will be Dave Zabriskie…we will find out in July."