DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Thirty years ago, Ireland’s Stephen Roche won a Tour de France that started from Germany, and this year’s edition, which kicks off in Duesseldorf, offers his nephew Dan Martin a unique opportunity to bring the yellow jersey back in the family.
“It’s funny that it also started in Germany 30 years ago. It was a very similar route, unpredictable,” Martin, whose cousin Nicolas Roche is also in the race, told Reuters.
“There are a few good omens in my pocket there.”
The 30-year-old Martin, ninth overall last year, knows that family ties will be of no help when he tackles the unusually steep climbs of this year’s route.
“It will be a worthy winner and I just hope that I get through the first stages without bad luck and let the legs do the talking,” the Quick-Step Floors rider said.
While three-time champion Chris Froome can rely Team Sky’s climbing specialists in the mountains, Martin will have to ride on his own as his team has been built around German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who hopes to add to his nine Tour stage wins.
That will not be a problem for Martin, who even believes the team set-up is an advantage as he will be sheltered on the flat stages, where the lightweight climbers are more exposed.
“At the end of the day, if every team had five climbers there’d be 100 riders at the top of the climbs and that’s not what the Tour is about,” he explained.
“Even the teams who have so called climbers there, you saw the Dauphine (a warm-up race to the Tour last month)... on the last stage we were only 10 riders at the top of the climb after 25 km. If the racing here is as aggressive as on the Dauphine then there will be no team mates.”
Luckily for Martin, the way the route has been designed, with only three summit finishes, makes for unpredictable, aggressive racing.
“The course suits me well -- the steeper climbs are better. You don’t need a team as much for sure and it is definitely a good route for exciting racing, I hope so anyway,” he said.
“There will be opportunities to gain or lose time every couple of days in this race, it’s important be in good condition from the start.”
The peloton is usually extremely nervous in the opening block of racing and crashes are legion.
With Quick-Step Floors, arguably the most experienced teams on the flat where wind gusts can cause splits in the peloton, Martin is well protected.
“Its definitely one of the strongest teams in the race on the flat stages and that’s my weak point,” he said.
“I’ve always been able to handle myself in the mountains but my worry has always been those first stages.”
The Tour starts on Saturday with a 14-km time trial in Duesseldorf, where Martin will be out to limit his losses.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman