Martin finished second to Beñat Intxausti on the queen stage to Mentougou Miaofeng, just failing to catch the Movistar rider before the finish. His ride moved him into second in the general classification, 10 seconds behind Intxausti.
“We’ll try to keep the place in the GC and if we can hold onto that then it would be a nice way to end the year,” Martin told Cyclingnews at the finish of stage four.
The 2013 season has been a bumper one for Martin, with victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and his first Tour de France stage win. He also claimed the general classification at the Volta a Catalunya in March. If he holds onto the second place at the Tour of Beijing, he will jump to sixth in the UCI WorldTour rankings, just behind Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali.
Martin went into the penultimate day as one of the favourites for the stage victory. The peloton was all together as they hit the foot of the climb up to the finish, with the high pace set by Belkin saw plenty of riders quickly dropped, including race leader Nacer Bouhanni. Martin came agonisingly close to the victory, but seemed to fade after making his late pursuit of Intxausti.
“It was pretty much the big chain ring the whole way and the small chain ring in places, but it was so fast,” explained Martin.
“I tried to stay as calm as possible, but Beñat got a bit too much of a gap. I got closer and closer and I thought I had him for about two seconds. Just as I was about to reach him he kicked and I just died, I couldn’t pedal any more. I only just about made it to the finish line.”
The Giro d’Italia in 2014
Next year’s Giro d'Italia starts in Northern Ireland and Martin is hoping to do well and keen to lead Garmin-Sharp in the first Grand Tour of the season.
Irish cycling is currently enjoying a revival, with the success of Martin and his cousin Nicolas Roche. Joining them in the WorldTour in 2014 is Philip Deignan, who joins Team Sky. All three want to be at the start in Belfast and then ride into Dublin on stage three.
“I’m definitely going to be going there and I’ll be going with ambition and I’ll be team leader,” Martin said to Cyclingnews.
“Racing in Ireland is going to be incredible. Cycling there has become huge and the support we get over there is huge. It’s going to be a huge event. It’s a bit surreal that it’s actually happening.”
The Giro d'Italia will open with a team time trial around the streets of Belfast. Garmin-Sharp has often been a force in team time trials and victory there could see Martin don the first race leader's pink jersey.
“It’s not an easy one to win,” Martin said pragmatically.
“We don’t have the same team time trial team as we had a few years ago. We’ll see what team we go with there and maybe we don’t get it in Ireland but later on in the race.”
“It would be incredible, but it wouldn’t actually change anything. That’s what’s incredible about the Irish public. I think it’s more important about the effort you put in and not the success that you have. They support you through thick and thin, to the hilt.”
If Martin was to take the maglia rosa, he would be the first Irishman to do so since his uncle Stephen Roche won the race in 1987. The Garmin rider won’t be the only opportunity to put a home rider into pink. Team Sky will also be one of the favourites to win in Belfast, giving Deignan a shot too.
Martin is trying not to put too much pressure on himself to take hold of the leader’s jersey.
“I’m not going into it saying I’m definitely riding GC,” he explained.
“I never want to go into a race and say I want to be on the podium, because that distracts from the short game. I’ll be taking it day by day, the same as at the Tour. I’ll be trying to win stages and then we’ll look at where we’re at in the final week.”