DUBAI // Tony Martin, the reigning, three-time world time trial champion, will start as favourite to win the opening stage of the inaugural Dubai Tour on Wednesday afternoon as the four-day International Cycling Union (UCI) Asia Tour event gets cracking with a 10-kilometre race against the clock.
The 28-year-old German said he believes his performance in the time trials today will be the key to his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team’s chances, with stars such as Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw to lead out Mark Cavendish in the three following sprint stages.
“It’s all about the start,” Martin said. “The time trial will be a big key to success, so you really need to make a good time. I am really looking forward to the time trial and hope for a good result. I also have some good friends as my co-riders, so I am really excited about this race.”
If Martin can get the Belgian outfit off to a winning start, Cavendish said he is confident his team have the strength to take the next three stages and overall victory.
“The race starts with a time trial and hopefully Omega Pharma-Quick Step will get off to a good start,” said the Briton, who was named the Tour de France’s best sprinter of all time by French newspaper L’Equipe in 2012.
“The three stages should end in sprints after that. We’ll be targeting all the stages here and the overall. We have obviously got myself for the sprints, then we have got Alessandro Petacchi. And with Tony Martin and Mark Renshaw, we have got a very, very strong team and we are looking forward to see what we can do. We’re motivated.”
Team Omega-Pharma Quick Step, however, will not have it easy with some of the sport’s biggest names in the fray.
There is Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), a four-time world time trial champion and 2008 Olympic gold medal winner, and the reigning World Road Race champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha), the 2013 UCI World Tour ranking topper, is here, and so are Peter Sagan (Cannondale), winner of the 2013 Tour de France Green Jersey points standing, and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), who ended Cavendish’s four-year winning streak on the final stage of the Tour de France last year.
Cancellara, who is making his debut for Trek Factory Racing this week, is one of the strong favourites for overall success, but the 32-year-old Swiss played down his chances on Tuesday.
“I have no ambitions at all,” said Cancellara, who missed three weeks of training in December due to illness and then had a brush against a car while training at home in Switzerland. “I lost a lot there, but I’m healthy now, we’ll see how it goes.
“I am looking forward to race with my new team and have four good days.”
German Kittel, winner of four stages at last year’s Tour de France, sounded more confident about his chances.
“Things have changed for myself and the team, but to put extra pressure on myself would not be smart because we can be confident with my boys around me,” he said. “They will always help me. So if we just take it easy, I think it will be good. I am very confident with the team I have out here.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), winner of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, is here as well, but with his wife, Rachele, at home expecting their first child, the 29-year-old Italian could be forgiven if he is a little distracted.
“When I am racing, I am always concentrating,” he said. “And there is always a telephone around to get news from home.”