Duo all set for Tour test

 

CYCLINGWITH JUST one day left before the start of the Tour de France, Irish duo Nicolas Roche and Daniel Martin are counting down the hours until the race begins with a flat, fast 6.1 kilometre prologue on the streets of Liège.

The duo have had very different preparations for the race, with Roche 10th in the Tour de Suisse then taking silver in Sunday’s Irish road race championships, while Martin limped through the Critérium du Dauphiné after crashing heavily on the first stage.

Both riders are, however, pleased with how they are feeling.

“Things this year were slow picking up, but they are building up well,” Roche said. “I think I should have a good Tour. It will depend on my time trailing, as there is so much this year, and what time I lose there.

“But if I can climb as well as in the Tour de Suisse and do decent time trials, I don’t think I’ll be too far back in the general classification.”

The 27-year old has a best overall finish of 14th in 2010. Time trials have been his weakness in the past, but he’s made some improvements there and, on the basis of his Tour de Suisse ride, is in his best pre-Tour form to date.

Martin is yet to ride the Tour but won a stage and was 13th overall in last year’s Vuelta a España.

His crash in the Dauphiné disrupted his preparation, yet he’s built up well since. “I’m lighter than I’ve been in two years, and feel fresh,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to starting.”

Sunday’s stage one to Seraing could suit him very well, given it is peppered with short, sharp climbs like those he rode well on in the Ardennes Classics.

He was fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and sixth in Flèche Wallonne in April. “I’ve seen the finish and it could be good for me,” he told The Irish Times this week.

Roche is doing his fourth Tour but for Martin, this will be his first.

“I am excited that Dan finally gets a go at the Tour,” said Roche, his first cousin. “It is an extra special race, it’s very difficult. I don’t think he realises it yet, but he will . . . he’ll soon get a feeling of the atmosphere of the Tour and see just how big it is.”

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