Garmin-Chipotle manager Jonathan Vaughters has tipped Irish champion Dan Martin to make a big breakthrough next season ? even suggesting he is in line for a place in the Tour de France.
Martin, 22 has impressed during his first professional season, winning the Route du Sud stage race in June, his national road race title and a strong performance in the Tour of Britain.
?Dan Martin will be in the lead group on all the mountain stages in the Tour de France next year. He may not be ready to go for GC and he may have a day when he?s not so good, but he?s going to surprise a lot of people,? said Vaughters.
?Climbing guys like him and Trent Lowe are going to get better next year. Dan has the genetics and the determination and he?s working with the best trainer in the world. I think it?s going to be interesting to watch.?
Considering the severity of the road race course at the Beijing Olympics and Martin?s status as a pure climber, it was a surprise he did not get selected for Ireland?s team. However, his win in the Route du Sud came after the line-up was selected.
Some will be surprised to see Martin is not in the Ireland team for the World Championships either. Instead, he?s been selected for the under-23 road race.
He will be one of the most experienced riders in the race, along with South Africa?s John-Lee Augustyn, who was first to the top of the Bonette-Restefond climb in the Alps at the Tour de France before that spectacular crash on the descent.
It raises the question of whether riders such as Martin and Augustyn ? who are eligible because they are not registered with a ProTour team ? should ride the under-23 race.
Vaughters said: ?Well, it?s an age category, not an experience category and he?s allowed to ride it. Peter Velits [last year?s under-23 world champion] had been a pro for a year [with the Wiesenhof-Felt team] so it?s not like there isn?t a precedent.
?I?m happy for him to ride it. I don?t know if the course is selective enough for him but you never know, he could win it.?
But Great Britain?s Ian Stannard, the 21-year-old who rides for Landbouwkrediet, disagrees that riders who have spent a season in the fully-fledged pro ranks should race in the under-23 event.
Stannard is in GB?s elite team and said: ?I don?t really think it?s right. Both those riders [Dan Martin and John-Lee Augustyn] are in big teams and they?ve done some big races, which counts for a lot against the guys who have been racing at the under-23 level.
?I think once you?ve moved up, you should keep trying to move forward.?
Dan Martin wins Route du Sud (June 08)
Dan Martin blogs on his first pro race (Feb 08)
CW rides with Dan Martin and his CC Giro club-mates (Dec 07)
The background to why Dan Martin swapped GB for Irish green: The one that got away from British Cycling?