Giro d'Italia: Dan Martin hopes for podium finish and admits pride at Belfast welcome
By Matt Westby in Belfast. Last Updated: 08/05/14 8:55pm
Dan Martin waves to thousands of fans at the Giro d'Italia team presentation in Belfast
Dan Martin believes he has the potential to finish on the podium at the Giro d’Italia but admits he knows very little about the race route.
The 27-year-old Irishman has been tipped to finish in the upper reaches of the general classification at the season's first Grand Tour, which starts in Belfast on Friday.
He is expected to share leadership of the Garmin-Sharp squad with 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal and although Martin has struggled to find top form in stage races so far this season, he is confident of justifying the faith his team has put in him.
He is so positive going into the race that he has not studied the fine details of the 21 stages and does not even know which days the potentially pivotal nine-summit finishes fall on.
Speaking at the team presentation in Belfast on Thursday evening, Martin said: “I’m looking at both stage wins and the general classification. I am never going to start a race not thinking of the general classification, but equally, 21 good stage results will equal a good general classification outcome, so that’s what we’re aiming for.
“Both myself and Ryder have got the physical capacity to be on the podium. We need a lot of luck, need to stay healthy and stay out of trouble, as well as having good form.
“To be honest, I haven’t looked at the course. I know basic parts of it, but I haven’t looked at it in detail and I couldn’t tell you what stages the mountain-top finishes are on. There’s no point complicating things by looking too far ahead.”
Martin’s sole focus on the eve of the race is the three stages in Northern Ireland and his native Ireland. Thousands of people defied rain to welcome the Giro to Belfast at the team presentation and Martin is determined to enjoy the experience of riding in front of passionate home fans.
"This is the biggest attendance we have had at a team presentation for a long time, which is fantastic to see and makes me incredibly proud to be Irish. It is great to see the people of Ireland give the race such a warm welcome."
“I think it is going to be a weekend that everybody involved remembers for many years to come,” he added. “It is probably going to be the biggest crowds that the race sees for the entire three weeks.
“This is the biggest attendance we have had at a team presentation for a long time, which is fantastic to see and makes me incredibly proud to be Irish. It is great to see the people of Ireland give the race such a warm welcome.”
Having two riders in contention for overall honours has been a problem for teams in the past at Grand Tours, not least the bitter union of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong at Astana in 2009 and, more recently, the complicated relationship between Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at Team Sky.
However, Martin insists his double-act with Hesjedal at Garmin-Sharp is both friendly and productive.
He said: “We have shown before that we work incredibly well together and that we have a good relationship. Going into the race, we are one of the only teams that has got a realistic chance of having two riders finish on the podium. It puts us in a strong position."