Roche predicts nephew to deliver Tour de force

All British eyes will be on Team Sky’s Chris Froome at the Tour de France, but a Birmingham-born Irishman is capable of upsetting the odds, according to one former winner.

Roche predicts nephew to deliver Tour de force

Dan Martin is expected to be confirmed in the Garmin-Sharp Tour team this week and is being backed by 1987 champion Stephen Roche for a successful three weeks in France.

There is a caveat to Roche’s comments: he is Martin’s uncle. But there is no doubt the 26-year-old is a prodigious talent, who earlier this year won the fabled one-day race Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

“Dan is capable of anything,” Roche said.

“Dan’s capable of winning the Tour, more than capable of winning one, two, three stages, maybe.

“Dan is one of those riders who you don’t want to give too much time to.

“He’s the kind of rider on his day who can rise to the occasion.

“If he gets in a lucky break and gets five, 10 minutes up, it would be very hard to get them back.”

Martin is likely to play a key mountain support role to Garmin-Sharp team-mate Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d’Italia champion, but the Irishman is capable of seizing any opportunity.

“Dan’s the kind of guy who will look for those lucky breaks,” Roche added. “He isn’t the kind of guy who would say, ‘the Tour’s not for me, it’s too big for me’.

“I know deep down he’s thinking, ‘I can win this’.”

Another Irishman, Nicolas Roche, faces a new experience at the Tour.

The son of the 1987 winner is used to leading a team at the Tour and carrying expectations, but this time around will be riding for two-time champion Alberto Contador in the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team.

“This year he’s riding for Contador, so it’s going to be more difficult for him to play his own personal card,” Roche senior said.

“He’s never ridden for a leader; he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a worker.

“Riding for Contador is a very good learning curve for him.”

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