While the start of the 2018 racing season is still over a month away, Irish riders are building their form and will shortly embark on intensive training camps with their professional teams.
Dan Martin has left the QuickStep Floors squad he competed with for the past two years, and will meet up with his new UAE Team Emirates squad. The riders and staff will have a camp between December 7th and 15th in Sicily, with Martin then heading to Milan for December 18th. He will head into the wind tunnel on that date, working with analysts to try to eke out further time trial improvements.
His first cousin, Nicolas Roche, is remaining with the BMC Racing Team squad and is preparing for what he hopes will be a big season. As it did last year, the team will head to Alicante and take advantage of the mild Spanish weather. They will log pre-season training kilometres, as well as holding a media day in December.
Meanwhile Sam Bennett's Bora-Hansgrohe team will have its official launch on December 7th in Schiltach, Germany. Bennett will meet up again with world champion Peter Sagan and others there, then the riders will head to Mallorca for a training camp.
They will work hard there in the build-up to Christmas.
Bennett made further progress in 2017, winning 10 UCI-ranked races. These included a superb four stages out of six in the Presidential Tour of Turkey. Bennett ended the year with a big boost to his morale and will be keen to step things up a level in 2018.
He finished second, third, third and third on stages of the Giro d'Italia and will be confident that he can take his first Grand Tour stage win in the coming months.
Martin also has rising Grand Tour ambitions, having finished sixth in the Tour de France despite a fracture to his spine. He is convinced that he can challenge for a podium, if not overall victory in the race, and will approach the season with that goal in mind. His chances were boosted somewhat this week by the news that four-time race winner Chris Froome will ride the Giro d'Italia before the French event.
No rider has won both races since Marco Pantani did so in 1998. Since then, competitors such as Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana have tried and failed to win both events, highlighting how much of a gamble it is for Froome.
Even if the Briton does win the Italian race, he will face off against far-fresher rivals in July. His win in this year’s event was his least dominant to date and, given he will be 33 years of age next May, it is far from certain that he will take a fifth Tour success.