Dan Martin ready to start Tour de France two weeks after suffering sacral fracture

GRAND COLOMBIER FRANCE AUGUST 09 Daniel Martin of Ireland and Team Israel StartUp Nation during the 32nd Tour de LAin 2020 Stage 3 a 145km stage from Saint Vulbas to Grand Colombier 1501m tourdelain TOURDELAIN TDA on August 09 2020 in Grand Colombier France Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) at the Tour de l'Ain (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Israel Start-Up Nation have announced their eight-man squad for the team's Tour de France debut, with Dan Martin fit to start two weeks after his crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Martin fractured his sacral bone in the crash and was forced to abandon after just two stages, also spending three days off the bike afterwards. In a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Irishman stated that he is ready to race, reiterating his goal to ride for stage victories rather than the general classification at the Tour. 

He will be joined in France by 11-time stage winner André Greipel, Ben Hermans, Nils Politt, Hugo Hofstetter, Tom Van Asbroeck, Krists Neilands, and the first Israeli to race the Tour, Guy Niv.

"It was quite a severe injury I had," Martin said. "In relative terms it was quite small because I was back on the bike after three days, riding pretty easy. But I still have a fracture, so obviously it's far from ideal.

"Also, missing the important stages of the Dauphiné was a bit of a blow for our preparations. But it's happened and fortunately I'm here on the start line – that's the most important thing. I would not be here if I wasn't physically healthy and able to race because I would never take the opportunity to race the Tour away from my teammates if I wasn't at full health.

"I refused to answer if I would be here to the team until Sunday or Monday because I wanted to be 100 per cent sure that I could comfortably produce the power required to be able to race around the Tour de France, not just ride around the Tour de France."

Martin said that he felt in great condition heading into the Dauphiné, and, as a result, doesn't feel like he has lost much form in the time since leaving the race. The 34-year-old postulated that the rest might even end up helping him towards the end of a Tour de France set to be among the toughest he's ever seen.

"I'm relieved, obviously, because I worked incredibly hard during the pause in racing. Going into the Dauphiné I was feeling in incredible condition and you don't just lose that. It's only been two weeks since I crashed, and you don't lose too much condition in that time," he said.

"Obviously it would've been nice a little bit of extra work but it is what it is and hopefully that bit of extra rest will pay off in the third week because I think it's one of the most incredibly difficult Grand Tours I've ever seen, if not the hardest.

"Considering how the season has played out so far, I think it's going to be a very challenging third week and it will be interesting to see how the race reacts to such a challenge, especially at this time of the year. Physically I'm ready and mentally even more so."

Aiming for stage victories

The team as a whole – a mix of climbers, sprinters and rouleurs – will be aiming for stage victories wherever possible, with the team working amongst themselves on a stage-by-stage basis. Martin didn't rule out riding for GC if he found himself in that position but stated that it's not the primary goal.

"The main aim for the team is a stage victory," Martin said. "Obviously, riding for the general classification limits your opportunities to contest for stages. In 2018 I could take my opportunity and win on a stage which didn't really suit the GC guys [stage 6 to Mûr de Bretagne – Ed.], but apart from that it's tricky to go for stage victories and the general classification.

"For us to really realise our objective of winning a stage, it's sensible for us to not go in with an objective to ride for GC. Obviously, you never know what's going to happen – if we get to the third week and I'm still there or thereabouts we can look at it."

The Tour will kick off on Saturday with a tougher opening week than usual, including two hilly stages around Nice on the opening weekend and summit finishes at Orcières-Merlette and Mont Aigoual on stages 4 and 6.

Martin said that the hard start to the race would ensure that riders lose their freshness quicker than usual, but added that the early GC reckoning likely to come on those stages could mean a less nervy start to the race.

"I think being such a hard first week, it won't be long until the peloton isn't so fresh," he said. "Even stage 2 looks incredibly challenging and hopefully it'll get rid of the nerves that are often a feature of the first week of the Tour de France. We often see incidents and crashes that affect the race in a negative way. So, I think it will make the third week even more challenging too. It's just part of the Tour.

"We'll go forward as a team and look at every stage almost as an individual one-day race. That's the luxury of not contesting the GC – we can attack every day as a new day and try and find a tactic that we can implement and get the best results possible. I think we have a diverse team here that can adapt to the specifics of each day and come up and work together as a team to support the rider best suited to each stage." 

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