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by Shane Stokes
January 7, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
A stage winner on the cobbles in the 2015 Tour de France, Tony Martin has now declared that he wants to target Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and other cobblestone events in the coming year.
The powerful German is a three-time world time trial champion and is known for having a huge engine. Encouraged by his victory on stage four to Cambrai in last year’s Tour, he’s now ready to chase new targets.
“I wanted to try some new things, so that’s why I talked with the team at the end of last season and agreed to go for the Belgian classics and semi-classics,” he said, talking about his season plans in an Etixx – Quick-Step statement.
“I will mix the regular races I usually do with the one-day races, which means I’ll line-up for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen, and if everything will work well I will try to be part of the team that will go in Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in the following months.”
Martin’s horsepower marks him out as a rider who could excel on the pavé, but he wants to give himself time to explore his capabilities rather than make predictions at this point.
“Obviously, I can’t say that I want to win there, but to test myself, to see how I do in this kind of races,” he said. “It would be great to be useful to the team in those races that are really important for us, as we are a team with Belgian roots.
“This spring will be a test and if the signals will be good, then I’d like to continue on this road. But first I need to gain some experience, so that’s why I’m downplaying any expectations.”
Martin has limited experience in the big one day events in Northern Europe, riding the Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2008. He was 42nd there.
His performance on stage four of last year’s Tour were more encouraging. He marked the favourites over the seven cobblestone sectors and then showed grit when he suffered a puncture. He remained composed, chased back on after that mishap, then attacked the lead group with 3.2 kilometres to go and soloed to victory.
Hitting the line three seconds ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) plus the rest of the 34-man front group, he picked up a time bonus and ended the day in the yellow jersey.
While he crashed out of the race two days later, he clearly retained some affinity for the cobbles and wants to try again on the jarring roads of France and Belgium.
Assessing the whole 2015 season, he describes it as one of ups and downs.
“My main goal was to take a stage and the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. I reached my goal, and that was brilliant,” he said. “On the other hand, I didn’t win as much as I expected in the spring. The condition was always good, but I missed some luck.
“Then, as I was approaching the last part of the season, I had my mind on the Richmond World Championships, but did not mange to win the rainbow jersey, and that was a huge disappointment.”
Martin still believes another world title is possible and will chase victory against the clock in the championships in Qatar later this year. Another stage win in the Tour de France is also on his radar.
However, if things go to plan in 2016 and beyond, he could find himself chasing the same cobblestone success as logged by another multiple world time trial champion, Fabian Cancellara.