However, Roche, who won the race in 1987, doesn’t believe that Martin or his own son Nicolas can claim the overall title in the gruelling event.
“Nicolas or Dan are both quite capable of finishing in the first five,” reasoned Roche senior. “I think to go into the top three is also possible, but from there on it’ll be very difficult.
“They’ll need to get a bit of luck and get in a lucky break — well not a lucky break because that’s impossible, but on the climbs they’re not going to drop some of the pre-race favourites like Nairo Quintana or Joaquim Rodriguez. However, they might beat them in time-trials. I think the only way they can be right up there is by getting into a break, catching them out in a crosswind or downhill to a finish. But on a one-to-one, it’ll be very difficult to drop them out of contention.
“However, if Nicolas could finish up around the top five I think it’d be great for him, and even Dan too. I see Dan winning a stage, maybe Nicolas too, but it depends on how he rides for the General Classification. Dan is quite capable of just switching it on some day and getting a stage win, whereas Nicolas concentrates so much for the GC, he misses out sometimes on good opportunities.
“It’ll depend on what happens in the second week, because the third week is the Dolomites and there’ll probably be bad weather as well, but I think Nicolas could do a top five and maybe get a stage win, but if he doesn’t, a top five is not too bad. Dan? I would put my money on Dan for a stage win.”
As regards career progression, Stephen believes there is more to come from his son.
“He’s had a levelled career with no real ups or downs, it has been very levelled. He’s probably one of the most consistent riders of the last 10 years,” said the former world champion and Tour de France winner.
“That doesn’t… it doesn’t resonate with people. Nicolas is a great guy, great person, very nice, speaks well, presents well, a very good professional, digs deep and everything else but he hasn’t won the big ones.
“I think he’s quite capable of it and I think he’s getting there.
“Right now, if he retired he’d be remembered as a rider who was very consistent but in three or four years he could be the guy who is remembered as a guy who took some solid wins.”