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VISE, Belgium (AFP) — World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) insisted on Monday he will fight to stay in the Tour de France despite suffering a left wrist fracture.
Martin, one of the Omega Pharma team’s key riders for the three-week epic, crashed on stage 1 Sunday and was later diagnosed with a fracure of the scaphoid bone.
Although such an injury can take weeks to recover from, Martin is determined it will not end his race so prematurely.
“We’ll see how things go, kilometer-by-kilometer,” said Martin, who will ride with strapping and a plastic brace on his left arm.
“The first thing we have to take aim at is to get to the first time trial on Monday.”
Martin is not a yellow jersey contender but is a big favorite for both of the long time trials on the race, having won the final time trial last year before claiming the world title in Copenhagen.
Monday’s ninth stage is a 43km race against the clock while the 19th stage, the penultimate of the race, is a 53km effort.
As well as having personal goals the German is scheduled to play a key role for American Levi Leipheimer, who is hoping to fight the many contenders for a place on the podium. Leipheimer, who suffered a similar but worse injury, believes Martin will have a good chance of finishing the race if he manages to come through the first few, painful days in the saddle.
“It sounds like it’s not broken — we’re relieved that he can start,” Leipheimer told AFP prior to the second stage from Vise to Tournai in Belgium.
“It’s a good break, I know because I broke my scaphoid and I know how dangerous it can be for the bone.
“For me it wasn’t possible (to race), I had to have a screw (inserted). But Tony’s is good enough to heal on its own.
“So we’re lucky that we still have him. If he makes it through the first couple of days, then the chances are good he makes it the whole way.”
“I know it won’t be easy, I expect to suffer,” added Martin. “But the Tour de France is very important for me and I don’t want to throw in the towel without giving it my best shot.”
Martin, 27, crashed early in the 198km stage from Liège to Seraing alongside South African Robert Hunter, but still managed to finish in a group that came through a few seconds behind winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).
The German also suffered a mishap in the opening prologue, for which he was a big favorite, on Saturday when he lost precious seconds due to a flat tire and a subsequent change of bike. He also suffered injury after being hit by a car while out training in April, an incident which delayed Martin’s training for the season.