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Dan Martin: 'I think this could be the hardest Tour de France we have ever seen’

Joe Robinson
5 Jul 2019

Irishman looks ahead to a tough final week of racing ahead of Grand Depart in Brussels

With the lack of an out-and-out favourite, Irishman Dan Martin will go into this year’s Tour de France as one of the many underdogs who could produce a surprise result. The absence of Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin has led riders and pundits to believe a relative outsider could have a shot at the yellow jersey.

However, Martin is keen to stress that no one will win this year’s Tour because of the absence of a favourite, but the best riders will have to prove themselves over some of the most difficult terrain ever experienced at the race.

Talking to Cyclist, the UAE Team Emirates rider laid out the scale of the difficulties ahead.

‘I think this could be the hardest Tour de France we have ever seen. I think there’s like 54,000m of climbing, which is more than any Grand Tour certainly in recent memory,’ says Martin.

In the final week, the peloton will race above 2,000m of altitude on seven occasions including three mammoth stages in the Alps and three summit finishes at high altitude.

‘There are not many days off, either,' Martin continues. 'From the top of my head, there are about 10 days which could have an impact on the General Classification; usually it's five or six.

‘You have to concentrate every day at the Tour but this year it is even more so because there are hard stages from the first week right through to the third week. Even Stage 3, it doesn’t look much on paper, but I know it's going to be seriously hard.’

The 32-year-old enters the Tour off the back of a solid performance at the Criterium du Dauphine where he finished eighth overall.

While the Irishman believes that a ‘poorly designed’ Dauphine course prevented any attacking riding, it did serve as a good week of riding just before the Tour, especially with the adverse weather experienced at the beginning of the race.

It also helped serve as part of a longer training block to which Martin prepared for that final week in the high mountains.

‘I convinced myself to recon the three stages in the Alps straight after the Dauphine so it actually felt like I had been racing for 11 days in the end,’ says Martin.

‘It kind of buckled me. After that, I had to take it easy because those stages are going to be brutal.’

With such a brutal last week of racing, a strong team is going to be necessary for anybody harbouring ambitions of a good result. Luckily, the team at Martin’s disposal is probably the strongest he has ever had.

While Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff has been selected and young Belgian Jasper Philpsen will be making his Tour debut, the remaining UAE Team Emirates riders will be a mixture of talented domestiques and headline climbers at Martin's disposal.

Among his team, Martin will have former World Champion Rui Costa, Colombian climber Sergio Henao and 2015 Vuelta a Espana champion Fabio Aru.

‘Every team is strong for different reasons but we have a lot of potential for stage victories. The team could also do a lot supporting me in the mountains. We have to look after each other and see how things go, at first,’ says Martin.

‘I have never been surrounded by such a strong group of climbers going into a Tour, which is exciting. We could potentially have four riders in the front group going into the mountains.’

When asked if he had targeted any particular stages, Martin gives a philosophical response.

'The last 100m of the last stage,' jokes Martin. 'I'm not thinking that far ahead, I'm taking it day by day and I want to take the opportunities in the present. That’s why I attack, I live day by day because worst case scenario you could go home on day one.'