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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Dan Martin expects 'one of the hardest races' as UAE Team Emirates get set for Paris-Nice

Irish rider finished third in the race last year but has warned of its difficulty ahead of Sunday's opening stage.

Dan Martin finished third in the Paris-Nice general classification last year and will lead the UAE Team Emirates at this year's race. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates
Dan Martin finished third in the Paris-Nice general classification last year and will lead the UAE Team Emirates at this year's race. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates

Dan Martin is expecting "one of the hardest races on the calendar" as he prepares to lead UAE Team Emirates at Paris-Nice next week.

Starting on Sunday and ending next Sunday, March 11, Paris-Nice is the sixth race of the 2018 UCI World Tour, covering 1,198.9 kilometres over eight stages.

Martin, who signed for UAE Team Emirates in August last year, will compete in his second race for the team following a 14th-place finish at the Volta ao Algarve last month. The 31-year-old Irishman has an impressive record at Paris-Nice having claimed third place in the general classification last year, but despite his success in the race, he has warned of how difficult it can be.

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โ€œI'm feeling good heading to Paris-Nice. In Algarve, I had good days and bad days but it was the perfect way to get the legs and body going but also to start working with my new teammates, both riders and staff," Martin said.

"Paris-Nice is one of the hardest races on the calendar because there is no easy day. The race can be lost every day. On paper the first stages seem easier but then there is the possibility of bad weather and crosswinds.

"Of course the Time Trial and mountain top finish on Stage 7 will see the biggest time gaps and the race will likely be won there, but what makes Paris-Nice hard is the concentration and endurance to not lose the race on the other stages, but also save enough energy to be good when it counts.

"My place on the podium at Paris-Nice last year was my first big result, so I'm definitely back this year to contest the GC, but of course I need to survive the first days and then we will see the situation after the Time Trial.โ€

Martin will be joined in the UAE Team Emirates seven-rider line-up by former world champion and 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour winner Rui Costa, European road champion Alexander Kristoff, Australian Rory Sutherland, British sprinter Ben Swift, Norway's Sven Erik Bystrom, and Italian Oliviero Troia.

Kristoff enters the race in fine form having secured stage victories in the Abu Dhabi Tour and the Tour of Oman in recent weeks, although the Norwegian is not expecting as much success in a race that does not cater to sprinters in the same way as the two Gulf events.

โ€œThere wonโ€™t be many opportunities for sprint finishes and the route will be difficult each day," Kristoff, 31, said. "Iโ€™m going to try and take advantage of every opportunity I get.

"Iโ€™m getting into better and better shape and the victories I achieved in Oman and Abu Dhabi are motivating me. Paris-Nice will be especially useful to continue improving my fitness, as I look forward to Milano-Sanremo and the Belgian Classics.โ€

Sunday's opening stage will see the riders start in the Paris suburb of Chatou before undertaking a 135km route that sees the peloton take on three category three climbs, one of which is the ascent finish at Meudon.

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