By Gregor Brown
Martin left team Quick-Step Floors to have a chance with UAE Team Emirates in the Tour de France this season. He says that everything "is gelling" for the start of the race on July 7, but the first week, especially the team time trial, is going to be difficult
"We are going to do our best," Martin said one day before the Tour in the west of France. "We are gelling as a unit, the feeling's really good in the team."
The team for the next three weeks includes Alexander Kristoff, Darwin Atapuma, Kristijan Durasek, Roberto Ferrari, Marco Marcato, Rory Sutherland and Oliviero Troia. In the last week, they have been drilling their team time trial as well as riding the cobbles of the Roubaix stage nine.
"We've never ridden a TTT together, but it feels like we have after these last few days of training," Martin added. "I am a lot happier than I was at the Dauphiné, we have a gelled unit here and a powerful one."
Martin turned around a difficult start to 2018 in the Critérium du Dauphiné, losing more than two minutes to the top team. However he won a stage later in the race, coming close on other days too, and finished fourth overall behind winner Geraint Thomas.
Had the team not lost so much in the team time trial, he perhaps could have won the race overall. Martin and his team-mates lost 2-28 minutes to Team Sky and slightly less to the other top teams and riders.
The stage three team time trial in Cholet, the location of the UAE hotel in these days, covers the same 35km distance.
Watch: Tour de France 2018 preview
"There are going to be days I lose time, but it comes and goes. You have to stay concentrated until the end and just let it gel together," he said.
"The only pressure you should really feel is the pressure you put on yourself. Obviously this is an incredibly important race, but it's you guys who put the pressure on us!
"We are very confident, we have a strong team. With that confidence, the pressure goes. We all want to be successful here. If we have fun, the results will come.
"I don't feel the need to put a number on [the final GC standings]. The goal is to stay healthy, the main thing to come out of last year is the belief and confidence it gave me. I asked myself, 'what would've been possible without injury?'"
>>> Tour de France 2018 route: what to expect from the 105th edition of the race
Martin fractured two vertebrae on stage nine of last year's race, but still managed to challenge in the overall. Only after the race, was the damage revealed.
"Now it's completely different, my condition is different, my competitors have different condition. I feel good, but I don't know if I feel better than last year or last week. I need to go into the race and just see what happens. It's one hell of a ride the Tour de France.
"It's definitely more restrictive racing for GC. It's a different sense of satisfaction. Winning a stage is amazing, but the GC is obviously incredibly important. Especially after last year, I want to ask, how far can I go in the GC? I don't know what that answer is, but I want to try."
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