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Irish world championship contender Dan Martin has predicted a very dramatic and unpredictable finale to the elite road race championship in Ponferrada, saying that the nature of the parcours should keep things in suspense right until the end.
“I think it is a great course because it is so open,” he told CyclingTips. “That is what makes it such a fantastic course. There is a list of people who can win that is as long as your arm. I was asked who the favourites are; it is almost impossible to name them because there are so many who…it just depends on how the race goes.
“Obviously Gerro [Simon Gerrans] is going really well, and he can sprint and he can climb. Even if it is a group of 40 or 50 at the finish, he can still win. He is a really big possibility, and obviously Fabian Cancellara as well. He took the Vuelta easy and again he can also sprint from a group of 50 or finish on his own.
“I think it is nearly impossible to name just a couple of favourites. There are so many other guys on the list. A break could even go with five laps to go. I think it is the kind of circuit that a break could literally stay away. I hope it is good weather and I think it will be one of the best worlds for a long time if there is good weather. It means that there are so many more guys in the race.”
Martin is a past winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a tough and very selective race, and has the characteristics necessary to contend for the title. Although he has been more under the radar than some other riders such as Gerrans (Australia), Cancellara (Switzerland), Alejandro Valverde (Spain), Michael Matthews (Australia) and John Degenkolb (Germany), he is regarded as a dark horse who could surprise. He was second on a stage and took seven other top ten stage finishes in the Vuelta a España en route to finishing seventh overall.
“I think I feel good,” he said, asked about his own chances. “It has been hard since the Vuelta, I have been really tired. My body took some recovering after the antibiotics and the crash and all that. I really had to empty myself to hold onto the GC places in the last few days.
“I don’t think I really realised how deep I dug. But I think that is going to pay off, to be honest. You always get stronger when you rest. I have been doing quite a bit of training since the Vuelta to keep my body open. I’ve started to feel really good again. So who knows?”
Martin is a strong climber and also a rider who can finish very quickly from a small group. That gives him options in the race, and he will receive dedicated backing before the finale from team-mates Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan.
“I really like the course,” he said. “It is interesting that the downhills are so technical and the climbs are really straightforward, big roads. I think the way the finish it, it kind of suits me. If you look at the under 23 race, the Norwegian kid, he got a bit of a gap at the top and stayed away to the finish. There is such a fast run-in to the line that it is possible to do that.
“It’s sure that the race is going to be hard. It is worlds. It is bound to be difficult. The under 23 race had just 40 guys at the finish [in the chasing group]. Because our race will be longer and a lot more aggressive, it could be smaller again.
“There are a lot of countries that are desperate for it not to be a big group sprint, so that is definitely going to make it an interesting race.”