Despite a recent bout of illness, Dan Martin will take to the start line on Friday for the three-day Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. The Irishman hasn’t raced since his successful campaign at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, and after the recent cancellation of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, he finds himself in France for three days of tough racing.
Joining Martin on the start line are several Israel Start-Up Nation debutants after the team made a raft of new signings over the winter. Chris Froome is absent as he starts his season at the UAE Tour, but the Israeli team has sent new arrivals Michael Woods, Daryl Impey, Patrick Bevin, and Sep Vanmarcke to join Martin. They are complemented by Krists Neilands and Hugo Hofstetter.
“It’s great to finally get racing again,” Martin said before Friday’s first stage. “This race was a late addition to my calendar when the races in Spain got cancelled. Winter has been good despite it being probably the coldest I have endured.
“I managed to get some good work done at home in Andorra, and then the team camp in January was great to get together with this great group we have assembled this year. There’s a very relaxed atmosphere in the ISN camp. Dinner conversation is great and we are all getting on well together.”
Martin is set for a co-leadership role at the Tour de France but this will be his first outing with Woods, Bevin, and Impey – all of whom could be handed Tour spots later this summer. Impey was brought to the team to fill the road as road captain and at 36, adds huge experience to the team, while Woods and Bevin also have proven track records.
Vanmarcke also won a stage of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var two years ago and has been signed to lead the team’s spring classics campaign.
As for the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, the three-day event might be short but its testing terrain includes a summit finish on stage 1 and the iconic climb of the Col de la Madone de Gorbio features on the final day of racing. A total of 11 WorldTour teams have entered rosters, with stacked line-ups from Ineos Grenadiers, Groupama FDJ and Trek-Segafredo.
For Martin, one of the aims will be to use the French race to build relationships with his new squad members, and while he isn’t putting too much pressure on his shoulders in terms of results, winning a stage is the overall aim for the team.
“This is the first race of the year for most of the guys here, first time racing together for most of us to so this is a race to learn how each other works and see what we can do. We have a super-strong group though, and I’m really just thinking about the team performance,” he said.
“I got a little bit sick last week and so took a recovery block that was actually scheduled anyway, but it means I am unsure where my condition is, but I’m just excited to get racing with these guys, probably one of the strongest teams I’ve ridden in, at least for quite some time.
“We are of course here to try and get a stage win. Whether it’s for myself or one of the other guys, I’m just out to enjoy the race, get the kilometres in my legs ahead of the WorldTour races in March.”