It was a good week to be a kid. This past week, two young riders, Dan Martin and Roman Kreuziger, took out their first major professional victories. Martin won the Route du Sud and Kreuziger, the Tour de Suisse. Read on for profiles of these two young talents.
Twenty-one year old Dan Martin won the Route du Sud on the crucial climbing stage which finished on the Super Bagnares and also included the Peyresoude. Martin attacked in the final 4 kilometers from a group containing experienced French climber Christophe Moreau, a move that won him the leaders jersey. Aussie climbing talent Trent Lowe rode as gregario, making tempo on the two major climbs of the day in a nice display of Garmin team riding. Jonathan Vaughters has an eye for climbers, it seems.
Martin is riding his first year as a professional after racing as a stagiare with then Team Slipstream beginning in August of last year. He received his first professional contract offer in 2006 at the age of 19, but preferred to ride another year as amateur. By the time he opted to sign with Vaughters, several pro tour teams had sought his signature and he is regarded as one of the best young climbers coming up through the ranks in Europe.
Martin comes from a cycling family and attended his first bike race early on. His father, Neil Martin rode as professional and his mother, Maria, is the sister of Stephen Roche. Quite the racing pedigree, there. In 2004, he won the British junior national championship road race. He has since changed his nationality to Irish, because the track emphasis in British cycling ill-suits his climbing talents.
As an amateur, he repeatedly showed his climbing talents, winning most of his results in the hills. He won the overall at the Giro delle Val d'Aoste last year. The Val d'Aoste has been good to Martin, in fact, since he also won a stage there in 2006. In 2007, he won the Tour de Pays de Savoie in France, and the KOM at the Ronde d'Isard. All about the mountains, that Martin. He knows the French races well, as he rode three years with the top French amateur team, VC La Pomme Marseilles, where Rémy di Grégorio also developed his talents. Little wonder that his first professional victory came in a French stage race.
His decision to sign with Slipstream, now Garmin, came as a surprise to some, as the team lacks the pedigree or prestige of many European pro teams. Martin cited the internal controls as a deciding factor in joining the team. Plainly, it's working out well so far. His first race as a pro with Garmin came at the Tour of Meditarranean, and he managed a top 20 finish on the Mont Faron stage which he targetted. He says for now, he's trying to develop his talents, but also keep racing fun.
Martin has received a fair amount of attention from the British site, Cyclingweekly, who have run several stories including this and this. They are a great place to watch for interviews and news, for those who wish to know more about Martin. Of course, there is also the constantly updating Team Garmin site, where you can find a lengthy list of Dan Martin stories. He does not appear to have his own site, just yet.
On the the Team Garmin site, Vaughters predicts that Martin will be one of the great climbers of the Tour de France when his time comes. Writes Vaughters, "What makes him great is his ability to relax, even when the stakes are very high." This is one of the marks which separate the good from the great. Martin will not ride the Tour this year, but he has already achieved his goal for the season. He said he wanted to win his first pro race. And voilà, indeed he has with this week's performance at Route du Sud. His next objective is the Irish National Championship races.
This year, winning the Tour de Suisse meant riding well in the 25 km crono up the Klausenpasse. The steady gradient suited well a light crono specialist, a stage racer who could ride well against the watch, but could also climb. It looked tailor-made for German talent Andreas Klöden. Roman Kreuziger, the 23 year old Czech talent riding for Team Liquigas, had other ideas. Kreuziger rode a brilliant crono, winning the stage and the overall, and taking his first major victory as a professional.
Kreuziger is no slouch against the watch, and the majority of his amateur results came either against the watch or in stage races. In 2004, he won the junior national championship for both road and time trial in the Czech Republic. That same year, he also won the junior world championship road race, run on a hilly course in Verona. He has ridden as professional since 2006 with Team Liquigas. Last year, he won a stage of the Settimana Ciclista Lombarda and a team time trial, paired with Vincenzo Nibali. He also finished second in the prologue at Paris-Nice. Until the Tour de Suisse, Kreuziger counted second overall at the Tour of Romandie, behind Andrea Klöden, as his most important result for the season. Revenge is sweet.
Kreuziger rides well in both the mountains and against the watch. At the beginning of this season, he said he felt he needed to improve his climbing, if he wants to place with the best. After this Tour de Suisse, he looks to be making good progress in that direction. He rode his first grand tour last year in Spain, and this year, he will ride his first Tour de France. The White jersey would be a great result, but his main aim in France is to learn the race and gain experience. Krueziger hopes one day to ride the Tour to win. He also has an affinity for the Ardennes classics, and believes that those races suit his characteristics. He is the first Czech rider to have won the Tour de Suisse. Trivia fans, take note.
Team Liquigas, loves to tell us little tidbits about their riders. And why not? Kreuziger's favorite car is Ferrari and his fave actress is Angelina Jolie. He likes Prague best of all cities. The beer can't hurt this ranking by any means. For vacation, Kreuziger likes the beach, and his hobbies are hockey and skiing, though his DS no doubt hopes he doesn't practice either too often.
In a post-race interview today, Krueziger said, "now my career begins anew." He was disappointed in his season in 2006, and while last year went better, he feels he is only now showing what he can do. Perhaps Kreuziger is a little hard on himself here, as the transtion to the pro ranks is never especially easy, especially at such a young age. Kreuziger is looking forward to the Tour, but cautioned us, and perhaps himself as well, that a three week tour is a different thing altogether. See you in France, Roman!