Comps Project: Dan Martin

Taking a stab at Mr. Oil Slick/Manhole cover. When he can stay on his bike, Dan Martin has been Garmin's best rider. Five monument top tens, two podiums, and a win at Liege last year (with a near repeat) mark him as one of the top puncheurs of the last few years. With two Grand Tour stage wins and a couple of ProTour GCs also in his pocket, all he's missing is a step up to leadership at the Giro or Tour. Can he handle what it takes over three weeks?

Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp

Age/experience: 27, 7th pro season

Palmares: Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour de Pologne, Volta a Catalunya, Stages at the Tour and Vuelta

Strengths: Ardennes classics, steep climbs, one week stage races

Weaknesses: Time-trials, consistency over three weeks

Style: Grinding out-of-the-saddle up steep finishes, pedaling away from pandas

Comps: Alejandro Valverde, Danilo Di Luca, Michele Bartoli

Valverde won Fleche Wallonne and LBL in his age 26 season. By then, he had also finished in the top five of the Vuelta three times (without finishing the Tour). His 2007 Tour was good enough for 6th overall, in spite of finishing 46th and 17th in the two ITTs. He also beat Lance Armstrong into Courchevel for a stage win two years earlier. One week success came later, with back-to-back Dauphines and the '09 Volta a Catalunya. Take away the (ahem) surprising time-trial success at early Vueltas and he's a good fit this this stage of Martin's career.

Whatever you think of Il Killer, his early career mirrors Martin's pretty well. Di Luca turned 27 in 2003. By then, he had won Lombardia and Tre Valli Varesine in addition to a few GT stages. Never time-trialed that well until the '07 Giro. Smaller than Martin or Valverde at 5'6".

Bartoli won the first of his back-to-back Doyenne titles at age 26. He would later add Fleche Wallonne, Amstel Gold, Lombardia, and a couple Worlds bronze medals to his haul. He won Three Days of De Panne earlier in his career in addition to Flanders in 1996, but never quite matched Martin's stage race success until he won Tirenno-Adriatico in 1999.

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