German wunderkind Tony Martin is making the World individual time trial his own and is aiming at his fourth championship in a row this year and his third in a row team time trial with Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in Ponferrada, Spain. He is far from a one trick pony though as he also wants to show well in the short stage races and do his team work for Mark Cavendish on the flat and Rigoberto Uran and Michal Kwiatkowski in the mountains. Tony Martin interviews just like he rides a time trial, no frills, no wasted energy and to the point, here is what he had to say:
PEZ: What are your big targets for 2014?
Tony Martin: The main objective will be the Worlds, I think it’s not too bad for me, next to that, for sure, will be the Tour de France, the stage of the long time trial. I also want to be good in the stage races in the spring, races like Pais Vasco or Tirreno, we will see, but races like these.
Tony Martin with his eyes on the Worlds and the Tour, but not cobbles!
PEZ: Would you be going to the Tour de France for the time trial or a high GC place?
Tony: Only the TT, we have such a strong team there will be work to do for Cav and Kwiatkowski.
PEZ: How disappointed were you to hear that there is no team time trial and only one individual time trial in the 2014 Tour?
Tony: Yeah, for me it’s a shame to only have one TT in three weeks, not just for me, but the TT belongs in the big stage races. OK I think if you have two or three then Froome will win by 5 minutes, so maybe the organisation had to do it. But the winner of the Tour de France has to be also good in the fight against the clock. So at least there should be two.
PEZ: Did you consider not riding the Tour and looking at the Giro d’Italia as it has two time trials and a team time trial?
Tony: No, the Tour de France is too important.
The World TT championships 2013
PEZ: Will your calendar be much the same as last season?
Tony: Yeah, I will ride in Milan-Sanremo for the first time, which is more or less the only change, I start in Dubai, but more or less it’s the same.
PEZ: Is Milan-Sanremo a personal goal or are you there for the team?
Tony: First of all I’m just curious to see it; I’ve only ever watched it on television, so it will be an experience to be there. First I’m there to support the team, but you never know if there is a good situation in the final, OK I can go for it on my own, but first of all I support the team.
PEZ: You say the Basque Country is a goal.
Tony: Yeah sure, I really like the race, even if it’s always raining, but I like it. I like it more than other riders do, it’s not so bad for me and it’s a nice race and I have ridden it a few times now and it suits me with a nice TT.
PEZ: Would you be thinking of the GC not just the time trial?
Tony: Oh yes.
PEZ: Are you looking forward to racing with Mark Renshaw again?
Tony: Yeah I’m happy to be with him again, we were a long time together in HTC, I really like him and we are now back to the old team. So there is a really special connection between us and it gives us a lot of morale and both [Cavendish & Renshaw] together they are almost unbeatable, so for the team it’s perfect.
PEZ: What do you think he can bring for Mark Cavendish?
Tony: Maybe the confidence again, because I know that Mark (Cavendish) has blind trust in him, so he will only have to focus on the real sprint and nothing before, so I think it’s like ‘never change a winning team’.
A winning team: Cav and Tony
PEZ: You say ‘never change a winning team’ but last year the TTT team of Omega Pharma – Quick-Step was really strong and since then Vandewalle and Chavanel have left, do you think you can build a strong TTT team for this year?
Tony: Yeah, the good thing is that we have so many strong time trialists on the team, last year it was very difficult to decide who was in the team and who was not. We have such a good second team, so I’m really optimistic that we can be as strong as last year.
PEZ: Do you think your main competition will come from Orica-GreenEdge?
Tony : Sure they were one of the big contenders, but there is Sky and BMC, it’s really hard to say, but it will come from one of them.
The UCI World TTT championships 2013
PEZ: Have you studied the course in Ponferrada?
Tony: Just on the internet.
PEZ: Is it special to end on a hill?
Tony: Yeah but what I’ve learnt from the Vuelta; between the profile and the book and reality it’s always a bit different. For the moment I’m not too optimistic, I’m happy they changed it, but I’ll still wait for a surprise.
PEZ: Is the hour record a target for you this year, or for the future.
Tony: In the past I wasn’t thinking about it, but now everyone is talking about it, so for sure it is a really nice discipline and it’s also good for cycling to focus on another discipline, so yeah why not. But we really have to find a good time because you need a long preparation and to do it between some highlights will be hard so maybe at the end of the season, I don’t know if it would be this season or another season, but after the Worlds maybe. I don’t want to say if it will be 14, 15 or 16, but I think it would be a nice goal.
PEZ: Cancellara has spoken to his coach, have you made any preparations?
Tony: No, now it’s the turf of Cancellara and just because he’s doing it I’m not saying I want it, I’m not like a small kid. I will have a look at what he is doing, but now the pressure is on him and then we’ll see, but when the moment is good maybe I’ll try it.
PEZ: How many weeks would it need for you to prepare?
Tony: The good thing is that I’m coming from the track and I have a lot of experience from there, so maybe two weeks and maybe some material [equipment] tests before that. It will take some time and I think during the season it would be hard, but maybe after the season.
PEZ: Do you know what Wattage output you would need for an hour?
Tony: That’s why we would have to test. Now, I can’t say because I have only used the TT bike, without that experience I can’t imagine.
PEZ: Have you done any tests with the bike on the track with Specialized?
Tony: This target was not up to date so we have done nothing.
PEZ: Do you think it’s good for riders like yourself, Wiggins and Cancellara to be looking at going for the Hour record.
Tony: It brings the focus on this discipline and for the fans I think it’s really nice, if just normal riders do it then not so many people would care about it, but if we three take the battle there it’s nice yeah.
The fastest man in the World against the clock
PEZ: Is it a stupid question to ask if you would ride the Ardennes this year?
Tony: I would really like to do Liège, but it’s too close to Romandie, I would just have one day recovery. Before that I have Dubai, Algarve, Tirreno, Sanremo, Pais Basque and Romandie, then the Tour of Belgium.
PEZ: After winning in Algarve twice will that be your first test for the season?
Tony: No, first will be Dubai because it starts with a long prologue and then two flat stages and one uphill finish, so for me this is the first test.
PEZ: Will you again use la Vuelta a España as preparation for the Worlds?
Tony: Yes it worked out really well the last years, so I’ll be there.
Four World TT championships in a row in 2014?
PEZ: You know there are three time trials in this year’s Vuelta?
Tony: That’s good to hear, yea that’s really good.
PEZ: What do you remember of your long solo stage in last year’s Vuelta?
Tony: For me it was a really nice day and I also received some nice reactions from the contenders and that showed that we are not only riders and we can have a good connection with each other. It was also good motivation for me for the Worlds, everyone saw what Cancellara did and I paid that back with a lot of moral, so for me it was a really nice day.
PEZ: Have you spoken to Cancellara about it?
Tony: No, it was not necessary, he did what he wanted to do and I did what I wanted to do.
The long break by Tony on stage 6 of la Vuelta a España 2013
PEZ: A lot of riders who are strong in the time trial are also strong in the cobblestone Classics, is that something you want to try?
Tony: Maybe at the very end of my career! Yeah it’s dangerous and I just don’t like it. I say take the normal way don’t take the cobbles, but some guys want to take the cobbles. I think you love it or you hate it and I hate it, I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do about that.
PEZ: With less cobbles in Roubaix it could be a race for you now?
Tony: We will see in the Tour de France this year, there are some sections of cobbles and I have to go there, so if I do perform well, then maybe in the future.
PEZ: But you ride on cobbles in the Tour of Belgium.
Tony: But it’s not the same eh! And also not the same guys on the start line.
PEZ: The team now has Uran which makes Omega Pharma – Quick-Step one of the strongest on the WorldTour. You now have cards to play in every race.
Tony: In one way it’s nice, but in another it makes our life a lot harder because it puts a lot of pressure on us. Now there is no day that we can say; ‘OK now we can take it easy’. On the flat we have Cav, in the mountains we have Uran and Kwiatkowski, in the Classics we have Tom, and so every day will be full gas for us. It can work out, but if you want everything; sometimes you get nothing. That’s life so we will have to work hard to have everything.
I told you Tony Martin was to the point, not many laughs, but he tells you what you need to know. Predictably he wants to be the TT and TTT World champion again in 2014, maybe some good wins in the short stage races and some hard work in the Grand Tours, but there won’t be any wins on the cobbles, that’s for sure.
If his cycling career packs it in Tony Martin could always go back to the Thuringen Police force with John Degenkolb…