February 2, 2010 by Irish Peloton
Martin chases victories in 2010
Daniel Martin started life as a British junior cyclist. He even won the British junior road title in 2004 at the age of 17. He is what is called a pure climber, a mountain goat. When the road starts going up and the percentages become leg numbing, Martin excels. Previous exponents of a pure climber were the likes of Marco Pantani, Lucho Herrera and Iban Mayo. What all these riders have in common is, as a result of being so light and small, is that none of them can time trial well. As such, Dan Martin didn’t fit in with British Cycling’s framework for success. They were very much focused on achievements on the track and this did not fit well with Martin’s style of riding. So he left the British cycling setup and their loss was Ireland’s gain as Martin changed his racing license to become Irish and has been racing as an Irishman ever since. Had David Brailsford gotten the British road team off the ground a few years earlier, I have no doubt that Martin would be entering the Tour de France this year with Team Sky on his jersey.
2009 was certainly a breakthrough year for Martin and he proved that he is capable in various styles of races. He finished in the podium places at short stage races such as the Tour Méditerranéen and the Volta a Catalunya. The latter of which is a Pro Tour race where Martin was only beaten by Alejandro Valverde. He also did well in one day races taking 5th place at the GP Ouest France-Plouay and perhaps most impressively he finished 8th in the Tour of Lombardy. He also competed in his first Grand Tour in September at the Vuelta a Espana where he raced as a mountain domestique for Tom Danielson. Martin helped maneuver Danielson into 9th place on G.C. before the Amercian was forced to abandon on Stage 18 due to a stomach complaint. The Irishman’s season could have been even better had it not been for a bout of food poisoning which led to a lengthy lay off in the Spring.
Martin has proven he is capable in three different race types, but even his directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters isn’t sure where Martin’s future lies saying in an interview with Shane Stokes “With Dan you still have got to wait and see where his talent goes – is he a G.C. 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? It’s still a bit undetermined at the moment”. What is certain is that 2010 is the year that Martin hopes will be his first participation in the Tour de France. He was pencilled in to ride his first Tour last year, but was struck down with tendinitis in June and he couldn’t recover in time to be in top form for the Grand Départ in July. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise as it meant he then rode the Vuelta instead where he finished 53rd overall. This experience of a three week tour will prove invaluable come July where he will hope to make the step up to the Tour de France.
Obviously the big difference in the Garmin-Transitions Tour squad this year will be the absence of Bradley Wiggins who has moved on to pastures new with Team Sky. However, Garmin’s plan for the Tour will not have changed. Just as in the last two years, the team will be based around achieving a podium place for Christian Vande Velde. Tour selection mightn’t be that straight forward for Martin though, who will have to prove he is worth a place with some early season results. From the nine riders who started last year’s Tour for Garmin, the only man who has left the team is Wiggins. Martin will obviously be hoping to slot straight into the departing Englishman’s place but also vying for a Tour spot will be two new signings, Johan van Summeren and Robbie Hunter. A lot depends on how much muscle Vaughters is willing to put behind Tyler Farrar’s quest for sprint victories. Time trial specialists Millar and Zabriskie will form part of a lead out train but both are also more than capable mountain domestiques on the lower slopes. Last year Julian Dean was last man in the train towing Farrar to the line. Would putting Hunter in the line as well be overkill? Perhaps he’ll sit out the Tour and be satisfied with chief sprinting duties at the Giro or Vuelta. Johan van Summeren, who Cadel Evans once described as the best domestique in the peloton, will also be aiming for a Tour place where he would prove to be invaluable to Vande Velde’s quest for a podium place. If Van Summeren gets the nod from Vaughters, the riders most likely to miss out are Martijn Maaskant, Danny Pate or sadlly, Dan Martin himself. Although even Maaskant’s place looks relatively assured due to his ability over the cobbles which will be useful during the first few Tour stages which take place in Belgium.
I feel that a lot will depend on early season form. Martin’s first few races of the season will be Tour Méditerranéen, Tour du Haut Var, Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. He has proven last year that he is capable of winning one of these races overall. A stage victory in one or more of these races is also entirely possible. He has also stated his desire to take on the Ardennes classics in April. A hilly classics rider is something which has been distinctly lacking in Garmin’s arsenal thus far, so this year could be the year when Martin stakes his claim to be the outright leader of the team in these races. A podium place in Amstel Gold, Fléche Wallonne or Liége-Bastogne-Liége would be a remarkable success. He has yet to win a Pro Tour level race, in fact his last victory at any level was the Irish National Road Race Championship a year and a half ago. A victory in a Pro Tour race should not be beyond Martin this year, indeed he will probably feel disappointed if he doesn’t take a top level victory. But surely Martin’s main goal for the season, like his compatriots Roche and Deignan, will be to take part in the Tour de France.
The possibility of having three Irish riders at this year’s Tour de France is very exciting. It should re-ignite the general public’s and the mass media’s interest in the sport of cycling which sadly has waned in Ireland ever since Stephen Roche and Seán Kelly called it a day. The three Irish riders are all very talented and in their own ways all have the potential to be a Tour de France stage winner. Obviously the Tour is not the only important race of the season and it will be hugely entertaining to track the Irish riders progress throughout the entire season. However, the Tour de France is the only race on the radar of the non-cycling fan in Ireland, and a strong Irish presence at the Tour in July should invoke plenty of interest throughout the country and may persuade a few people to increase their attentiveness to this fantastic sport. The Irish presence gets underway on the 3rd February when Nicolas Roche takes to the start line of the Étoile de Bességes, a five day stage race which takes place in Southern France. The An Post-Seán Kelly team will also be present with Irish riders Mark Cassidy and Páidí Ó’Brien. Let’s hope it’s the start of a great season for Irish cycling.
Paul Kelly - February 2, 2010 @ 5:51 pm
Good post, but you never said why Martin was able to declare for Ireland!
irishpeloton - February 3, 2010 @ 3:21 pm
Fair point! He was born in Birmingham and is the son of former cyclist Neil Martin who once won a stage in the 1986 Milk Race. Neil Martin married an Irishwoman, the sister of Tour de France winner Stephen Roche. Which makes Dan Martin the nephew of Stephen Roche, the cousin of Nicolas Roche but more importantly, it makes him half Irish!