Martin plays down time-trial chances

Cycling,Tour,FRA,GER,Martin,time trial,Froome,Omega Pharma quick step
World champion Tony Martin relaxed before the Stage 11 time trial (Getty Images)

He may boast a remarkable record in the discipline, but Germany's Tony Martin dismisses any notion that he should be considered as the favourite to win Wednesday's individual time-trial between Embrun and Chorges in the Alps.

With the right motivation and if the circumstances are perfect, then I could get lucky, but this is not a classic time-trial.

The 17th stage of this year's Tour de France will be the second and final individual time-trial of the race, and Martin comes into it as the man to beat after his stunning victory in last week's stage between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel.

On that occasion he produced the third-fastest time-trial in Tour de France history to beat overall race leader Chris Froome by 12 seconds, while no other rider got within a minute of the German.

As a result, the Omega Pharma Quick-Step team rider has won his last 10 time-trials in a row, an impressive feat to add to his status as two-time world champion in the discipline.

However, while the 11th stage ride to Mont-Saint-Michel was little more than gently undulating, Wednesday's 32km route in the Alps features two second-category climbs, on the Cote de Puy-Sanieres and the Cote de Reallon.

Martin therefore feels that a specialist climber like Froome is a better bet to win and further cement his position at the top of the general classification in the process.

"If I say I am going to win on Wednesday, I might as well say that I am also capable of winning at L'Alpe d'Huez," admitted Martin, with a nod to the unclassified climb on which Thursday's 18th stage will finish.

"With the right motivation and if the circumstances are perfect, then I could get lucky, but this is not a classic time-trial."

Martin will leave the ramp almost four hours before the leading riders in the general classification.

That could prove to be significant, given that dry conditions in the first half of the day are expected to give way to heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The fact that Thursday's stage will involve two climbs of the daunting Alpe d'Huez could also have an impact on the performances of some.

"It's going to be a really tough time-trial and everyone will be going as hard as they can," said Froome.

"You have to keep in mind that the day after we're going up Alpe d'Huez twice, though, so it's going to be difficult.

"I think people are going to have to pace themselves over the next few days, keeping in mind that this really is the business end of the race now."

One man who is obliged to attack, however, is Alberto Contador, even more so after his failed attempt to accelerate away towards the end of Tuesday's ride into Gap.

Nevertheless, Frenchman Philippe Mauduit, sporting director at Contador's Team Saxo, knows that wet conditions could favour the Spaniard as he desperately tries to close a gap of 4min 25sec to Froome in the overall standings.

"If it rains at all, then it is a course than suits him well, but if the ground is drier he will not be able to make as big a difference on the downhills," said Mauduit.

"Chris (Froome) should be superior on the climbs, but it is not a bad route for Alberto, that is clear. It should favour him a little bit more than Mont-Saint-Michel."

SBS will broadcast all stages of the Tour de France live.

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