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Tony Martin has been nominated as stage one favourite for the 2017 Tour de France, with race organiser ASO saying that the 13km time trial on the streets of Düsseldorf make him the most likely winner.
Encouragingly for Martin, his longtime coach Sebastian Weber has said that he has made substantial improvements in his time trial position over the winter.
“I had two days positioning and testing with Tony last month and he improved again a lot,” Weber told CyclingTips.
“I was surprised by the amount of the improvement. It means that on the flat, he should be absolutely faster this year in time trials.”
He indicated that a new hand/forearm position is part of the improvement.
Weber has worked with Martin since his professional debut with HTC Highroad. Under his guidance, the rider won the World time trial championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and has also taken time trials in the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and multiple other events.
However, he lost his worlds dominance in 2014 when beaten into second place by Bradley Wiggins, and was seventh in last September’s edition.
The latter result may well have been influenced by the fractured collarbone he suffered in the Tour de France, an injury which put him out while wearing the yellow jersey.
Still, the news that Weber believes he will step up a level this season is highly encouraging, not least because the worlds time trial will be on the flat roads of Qatar.
Weber is also the team coach of the Cannondale Pro Cycling squad. He explained that he is able to do some limited work with other riders as long as they are not direct competitors of the Cannondale team.
“For example, when I started working with Cannondale [when it was Italian-owned in 2014], we had Peter Sagan on the team.
“I had been coaching Andre Greipel since 2006. The team said, ‘well, we like to have you on the team, but we don’t like you to coach Sagan and Greipel at the same time.’
“It is a professional job, and obviously I stopped working with Greipel.”
“One day when Ryan [Mullen, Cannondale’s promising new signing] is in this position, then things might change. But at least for 2016 it is like this with Tony.”
On Thursday ASO tipped Martin for success on day one of next year’s Tour.
“Based on the stage profile, Tony Martin has the best shot at wearing the legendary yellow jersey in his home country at the end of the opening day,” it said.