Kelly: Martin and Roche must justify grand ideas

Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly believes the Grand Tour potential of Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin is still unclear ahead of the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Belfast on Friday week.

Kelly: Martin and Roche must justify grand ideas

The former world No 1, Tour de France green jersey and Vuelta overall winner, said Martin was improving and Roche had something of a breakthrough season last year, but the question now is how much more they can go in their respective careers.

“I think with Dan Martin, he’s improving all the time,” Kelly said of the Garmin Sharp man, who will lead his team at the Giro and has already won a mountain stage in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta A Espana.

“He’s getting better at Grand Tours. He seems to be improving all the time. There’s time on his side because I think age-wise, he still has a lot of years left.

“Nicolas Roche also, we see last year in the Vuelta he had a very solid performance. Then there was one day with the horrible weather conditions and so many riders were suffering on that day.

“A lot of riders dropped out and a lot of riders lost a lot of time and Roche was one of those. Otherwise I think a top five in the Vuelta last year would have been possible for him. So that is a big improvement.

“But the question is now how much (more) will they improve. There will come a time when it levels out and they do not improve any more. So (Roche) will be hoping over the next two or three years that he will improve, as he has been in the last two of three years.”

Roche had a promising start to his final tune-up before the Giro yesterday, finishing 20 seconds down on stage winner, Michal Kwiatkowski, in the Tour of Romandie opening stage.

The stage, a 5.5-kilometre prologue was won by the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step rider in six minutes 22 seconds but the Irishman will look to move up the standings as the week progresses.

“Having been on training camp near Etna on Sicily recently, my form is coming along nicely,” Roche said afterwards. “We’ve all been working really hard over the past four weeks and I think it’s finally starting to show.

“It’s been an important camp in terms of preparing for the Giro and hopefully, Romandie will brush up my condition so I’ll be ready when the racing starts in Belfast on Friday week. I feel ready and that’s a good start.”

Meanwhile, Kelly believes Team Sky will find it far more difficult to achieve their goals this year and win the Tour de France for a third straight year.

One factor was the form of some of the contenders from other teams — including Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) — and the fact the British team’s season to date has been incident-filled. The latest issue was Chris Froome’s non-start at Liège–Bastogne–Liège last Sunday, due to what has been described as a mild chest infection.

“It’s ongoing,” Kelly said of Froome’s problems in recent months.

“First of all before the Tirreno Adriatico I think it was a back problem. (He) overcame that and now he’s getting a touch of bronchitis, a chest infection. It all affects your preparation.

“This time last year, Froome was after having much more success.

“I think they still have time on their side,” he added of the squad reaching top form for the Tour de France.

He suggested Wiggins’ resurgence at a time when Froome has looked fallible means the selection process for the Tour de France and awarding clear team leadership to one man may not be as straightforward as before for Sky.

“It’s going to be a difficult decision; will they have to field the two riders?

“When you look at the Tour de France this year, on day five we have a very difficult cobbled section; they have to consider that. It’ll be an interesting time to see what the Tour team selection is going to be in Team Sky.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up