Tony Martin (37) was one of the fastest time trialists of an entire generation, won five stages in the Tour de France and was considered a loudspeaker in the peloton.
In an exclusive interview with sport.de the former cycling professional talks about the first Tour of France after the end of his career and the eagerly awaited duel between last year’s winner Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic.
Martin also evaluates the chances of the German drivers and explains why hopeful Lennard Kämna is not yet a man for the overall classification.
Mr. Martin, after more than ten years this is the first year after your active career and without the Tour de France. Are your legs still itchy?
Tony Martin: I’m really glad that I won’t be there this year. With all the euphoria, all the prestige and hype, for us drivers the tour is also an awful torment and a great danger. I also fell extremely often and hard. After 13 years on the tour and not being home in the summer, I’m now enjoying my family vacation and looking forward to the tour as a fan.
Are you still active on the bike?
Still very happy. Two weeks ago I was with friends at a big amateur race in Norway with a distance of over 500 kilometers. That was quite an adventure. It’s nice to see the other side of the sport now.
Are you still in contact with your former teammates or other stars from the field of drivers?
I’m in touch with some Jumbo Visma guys via WhatsApp. Of course, one likes to congratulate, especially when it comes to success. However, I don’t see the guys that often anymore because I live in Switzerland and most of the other drivers in Holland or Spain. It is also not easy due to the many corona precautionary measures in cycling. If it’s possible, I’ll stop by at a race in the near future.
Let’s look at the upcoming Tour de France and stay with your former team Jumbo-Visma: Will it be Primoz Roglic’s Tour?
He definitely has a chance and the signs are good. But of course he also has his biggest competitor in his Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar. Before the Tour, a direct comparison between the two drivers was not possible because, like in previous years, Pogacar drove other races. Therefore, you can not say how good Pogacar is actually on it. But I think it will be a duel between him and Roglic.
2020 and 2021 won Pogacar already The Tour. Now the third win in a row beckons. What makes him so strong?
Physically, Pogacar is super talented. He is an exceptional athlete on a similar level as Roglic. What makes him special are his driving skills. You’ve already seen that on the tour and the spring classics. He’s a complete racer.
It was also a strong team effort from UAE that they got Pogacar through the race for three weeks without falling in the two Tour victories. Roglic was not lucky last year. But it’s not just luck, it’s also about driving skills and the strength of the team. Everything together makes him so strong.
Can Pogacar even be beaten?
If he’s having a weak day, you have to recognize it immediately and take advantage of it. Then you can’t leave five meters of air on your rear wheel.
And if Roglic falters, does his teammate Jonas Vingegaard attack like last year?
As far as I know Jumbo, they will position themselves strategically very well. They have a second card to play, the Vingegaard. That’s the biggest advantage of Jumbo, that they have two almost equally strong captains. So they can play cat and mouse with Pogacar. UEA will find it difficult to counter that.
In addition to the dual leadership of Roglic/Vingegaard, Wout van Aert, who is currently probably the most versatile driver in the peloton, drives the Tour for Jumbo-Visma. Are they the strongest team?
I would say yes. But with a Van Aaert, the commitments don’t diminish. He now also wants to attack the green jersey. And that as a goal alone actually occupies an entire team. So Jumbo wants to race for yellow, green and white – that’s quite a challenge. Their strength may also be their weakness. Because it makes all the other teams rely on Jumbo. And then it says in the field: “You have the most to lose. If you don’t drive, then we won’t drive either.”
On the 11th and 12th stages, the riders will climb the Galibier on two consecutive days. The myth of L’Alpe d’Huez is also back. Do these stages bring the decision about the Tour victory?
The stages are predestined for this, there will be a showdown. But as is always the case with the Tour: You also have to survive the nervous flat stages in the first week. Keywords: edge wind, falls and cobblestones. Maybe one or the other ranking driver will be thrown backwards. When the top has crystallized afterwards, the decision will be made on these stages.
Speaking of cobblestones, stage 5 has a homage to Paris-Roubaix and several cobblestone sections. How dangerous is such a stage for the drivers?
Cobblestones are always dangerous on a stage. The biggest problem is nervousness. Everyone wants to be at the front, everyone has to be at the front and wants to be the first to get into the pavé. In itself, the cobblestones are not a danger. It’s much more the fights before that.
There is a big discrepancy in the peloton. There are riders who have the pavé down and take the spring classics with them. But there are also a few drivers in the overall standings who have never driven in Paris-Roubaix. You already know today that they are sitting on the couch beforehand and asking themselves: How am I supposed to survive this stage?
With André Greipel and you, two stars of German cycling recently ended their careers. Which name do the fans have to remember, which of the German drivers can make headlines this year?
I definitely see Maximilian Schachmann and Lennard Kämna from Bora-hansgrohe.
Schachmann went through a long phase of illness in the spring and then rode a strong Tour de Suisse. Maxi is a guy who often comes back stronger from breaks. Especially when he can train at home in peace. I see Maxi as an aspirant for a stage win from a breakaway group.
The same goes for me for Lennard Kämna. He rode well at the Giro and is generally a grab bag. If he’s mentally fit – that’s kind of the crux of the matter – then I think he’s capable of winning a stage.
Bora-hansgrohe is considering allowing Kämna to compete in the overall standings in the future. Is Kämna ready?
Difficult! I know the stories of young talents who have good days and are then told to finish the Tour too quickly for the overall rankings. Maybe it would be better if Kämna first drove to the classification at the Vuelta. At the end of the year and with less media hype and stress. He has the potential for the overall classification at the Tour, but you have to calmly lead young riders there.
He has never made it onto the rankings in a Grand Tour. And especially on a three-week tour, the mental factor is extremely important. In this respect, the Kämna should rather test beforehand at the Vuelta. If he finishes in the top 10 or top 5, you can also tackle the Tour de France.
So: What’s in this year’s tour from a German point of view?
We don’t have a driver at the start where you say: He’ll finish a stage or go for the overall ranking – you have to be that fair. But we have chances. When Bora rides smart, they have a lot of second row riders who can win stages in the moment of surprise. I will keep my fingers crossed. The potential is there and now we are going to be surprised.
What will you miss most without the Tour de France?
The anticipation and excitement for the tour as a big highlight. This feeling: you are well prepared yourself and so are your teammates.
In recent years it has been awesome to be at the start with Jumbo and to know that we want to fight for stage wins and the podium. The fighting spirit is also sworn up enormously. Pursuing this common goal with the boys, I’ll miss that. Jumbo is also a brilliant team and to be a part of it makes me proud. And just observing this from the outside will hurt me a bit.
And how are you following the tour this year for the first time as a spectator?
I’ll be in Sardinia in the caravan and I’m hoping to get internet somewhere (laughs). I’m also a cycling fan and just feel like watching the tour every day – if my family allows it. In a pinch, I watch the synopsis in the evening after the kids are in bed. I’m also in the mood to come to the tour as a fan in three or four years.
The interview was conducted by Norman Droste