Martin made his debut in the race and finished a highly respectable 35th, while Roche churned out his best ever result in 12th, having rode the race for the fourth time.
To put Martin’s result into context, Tour winner Bradley Wiggins made his debut in 2006 and finished 123rd and, given this year’s race, which didn’t favour the pure climber that Martin is, he’ll be the first to admit there’s stage-winning potential in him — if not more, in the future.
The 26-year-old’s stated goal at the start of the race was a stage win and he almost got it on stage 16 when he forged his way into a 38-man break, drilled a relentless pace that only two others could match, but paid for his efforts when one of those — Thomas Voeckler burst clear of him and won the stage. That showed Martin’s strength and aggression, but also his naivete. He won’t make that mistake again.
A day later, on the 143 kilometre leg-breaker from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes he went close again, but had to settle for 10th, so there’s every reason to suggest the Tour is a race for him.
The same goes for Roche and though his wait for a stage win was cruelly ripped from his grasp 100 metres from the line by Mark Cavendish on Friday, his performances were no less impressive and losing under 20 minutes to Wiggins over three weeks and 87 hours of racing is the best Irish performance in the race for 20 years.
Roche sets himself the highest of standards and though he’ll be disgusted not to have broken into the top 10, he has many years left to achieve same. The duo will hope to open Ireland’s Olympic medal account next Saturday when they team up with David McCann for the road race in London.