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The 2013 stage winner Dan Martin has confirmed that he will miss this year’s Tour de France, electing to delay his return to stage racing after suffering a collarbone fracture in the Giro d’Italia.
Although Martin has fully recovered from the shoulder issue which occurred when he crashed during the opening team time trial in Belfast on May 9th, he and his Garmin-Sharp team have passed up the possibility of him riding the Tour, opting instead to target the Vuelta a España and world championships.
“Before the start of the year we looked at the course and thought the Vuelta was a better option for me. Obviously a lot of guys crash out of the Giro or have a bad Giro, and the immediate reaction is to just go straight to the Tour,” Martin told CyclingTips.
“For me, I prefer to be 100 percent ready for the next Grand Tour I do. I wasn’t ready in time to do Suisse, so I wouldn’t have had a stage race before the Tour. I didn’t have enough time to be 100 percent.”
Martin was told by the surgeon who put a plate in his shoulder to wait six weeks before racing. He will ride the Irish road race championships this coming Sunday but without a stage race in his legs, he believes it would be expecting too much of himself to start the Tour.
“I think I am quite fit now but I am not anywhere near good enough to be contesting stages or whatever at the Tour,” he said. “Who knows for sure…I might be, but I don’t think I am at 100 percent. It is better just to refocus and, rather than rush into something, really give myself time to prepare properly for the Vuelta.”
Martin won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2011 and finished thirteenth overall. That remains his best Grand Tour general classification performance to date, but he believes he would have been top ten in last year’s Tour had he not become ill towards the end of the race.
A high GC finish is a realistic goal for what is a very hilly Vuelta, as well as stage wins. He said he didn’t want to lay out targets just yet, however, preferring to concentrate on his next races.
“I am just going to go to every race now trying to do my best, like how I used to race”
Martin won the Irish title in 2008 and has missed the race on several occasions since then. He has a chance to take the green and white jersey again and made clear to CyclingTips earlier this month that it was an important target for him.
However, he admits to some uncertainty about how it will go. “I haven’t raced for nine weeks so I have no idea what to expect, really,” he said this week. “I am basically counting Liège as my last race. Obviously I will find out on Sunday…I think the first half of the race will really hurt because I am definitely ring rusty.
“You have got guys like Sam [Bennett] and Philip [Deignan] who are in really good form at the moment. Obviously Philip has been going really well after the Giro and Sam is winning races…I saw he won another race the other day.
“I think Sam will definitely be the favourite but we will see how we are going in a few days. Even thought I haven’t raced in a while I will still be a marked man because of the jersey I am wearing. Anyway, we will see. It will just be nice to race back in Ireland again.
“It is time to break that duck after the last time obviously didn’t go too well. So hopefully this time it goes a bit better.”
After that Martin will look to the Tour of Austria, which runs from July 6 to 13. He’s excited about that, noting he has never ridden it before and has been told by many people that it is a beautiful race.
In August he will continue his buildup to the Vuelta with participation in the Tour of Poland, which begins on the third of that month. He won the race in 2010 and finished second one year later, taking a stage. It’s clearly a race which clicks well for him, and one he’d like to do well in again.
“Obviously Poland has got fond memories for me. We will definitely go in with as strong a team as always. Garmin-Sharp puts a good lineup into every race we do now. We will be going in there with a strong team and looking to do something again.”
In fact, after a spring spent building gradually for the Giro d’Italia, he’s pleased to revert to a more aggressive, ambitious approach to his general programme.
“I think I am just going to go to every race now trying to do my best, like how I used to race,” he said. “This year I really did concentrate on just the Giro, but from now on I just want to take the results when they come along. To just go for it in every race and see what happens. That seems to suit my mindset better.”
Martin notes that he has done very little racing this year; to date, he has competed less than twenty days. With riders starting to fatigue in the second half of the season, he sees this as a big advantage for the Spanish Grand Tour and his other big target, the world championships.
“I reckon I will be hitting the Vuelta with the least race days of anybody. So I think it will be quite a good position to be in,” he said. “It is also quite poetic in that the Vuelta starts in the same place I crashed out in last year. Hopefully it is a sign that it is a meant to be.
“I will definitely be going into the Vuelta in top condition, and obviously quite fresh from the lack of racing at the start of the season. It will be a big goal and I will be killing myself every day there, but I also see it as the best preparation for the world championships. It is great to get that racing in your legs, considering the strength it gives you. It is invaluable when it comes to racing 260 kilometres at the end of September.”
Martin is a strong, punchy climber and also a fast finisher from a small group. He won last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège and might have done so again this season had he not crashed on the final corner.
Those performances show that he has what it takes to win the worlds and with the Ponferrada route expected to be a tough slog, he’s got a clear focus on the rainbow jersey.
“The worlds is a big objective. I haven’t seen the course, but it is a long, hard, hilly race. I don’t know just how hard it is, but it is the worlds. It is always going to be difficult. It is always going to be one of the strongest riders who wins. Hopefully I can be among the fight when it comes down to the finish.”
If so, and if it works out well in the finale, forgoing the Tour will have been a very worthwhile decision.