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Martin poised to rule the clock in 2013

German time trial ace says Taylor Phinney is his new top rival in the chrono as he prepares for his first test in Portugal this week

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MADRID (VN) — Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is poised to be the king of the chrono for 2013.

The 27-year-old German says he’s entering the sweet spot of his career and rides into a new season intent on confirming his status as the peloton’s top time trialist.

“I want to try to win every major time trial I race this year,” Martin told VeloNews. “I know I will not win them all. The goal is to be competitive in every time trial and try to win.”

The Omega Pharma star will get his first test this week at the Volta ao Algarve (Tour of the Algarve), which opens Thursday on Portugal’s southern coast.

Teammate Mark Cavendish will be looking to win sprints in the first two stages while the second-category finale up Alto do Malhao will set up the GC in stage 3. The final-day TT, at 34.8km, will provide Martin with a good litmus test on whether his ambitions will match up with his fitness.

Martin debuted last week at the Challenge Mallorca, but will have his first chance to ride in his world champion time trial stripes on Sunday.

“I am ready to race. The big goals are the Tour [de France] and the world title,” Martin said. “I would also like to do well in some smaller stage races. I want to have a good year. Last year, I had some bad luck.”

In 2011, Martin emerged as the peloton’s best time trialist, winning nearly every major test against the clock before finally eclipsing archrival Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) at the worlds in Copenhagen to win his rainbow jersey.

Last year, the road was anything but smooth for Martin. He was nagged by illness, crashes, and ill-timed punctures that proved costly. He came back in time to win silver at the London Summer Games, but Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was the man of the hour last year in time trials.

Martin salvaged his season by claiming a narrow, five-second victory over Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) in Valkenburg, Netherlands, in September to defend his worlds stripes.

He realizes it’s getting crowded at the top.

“Wiggins was very strong last year. We have to see how he rides this year. Maybe his goals are different,” Martin said. “Cancellara is always good in time trials. Maybe he is focusing on the classics more. I know he is always strong.”

Martin said Phinney is one of his new rivals to keep an eye on.

“You see him getting stronger every year,” Martin said. “He made it very hard for me last year at the worlds. He is one of my top competitors.”

Cancellara, who won four world TT titles over five years, said it’s now Martin who has to carry the pressure of being the man to beat in every major race against the clock.

Martin says that’s just fine.

“Having that pressure motivates me,” Martin said. “I want to be the best and I do not mind having people look to me to win. That’s what I try to do.”

For 2013, Martin wants to return to the form and consistency he enjoyed during 2011. Last year’s ups and downs made for a frustrating season.

“Last year, I had many problems and could only be at my best a few times,” Martin said. “I hope to avoid crashes and becoming ill. That’s part of racing. All you can do is keep working. I know when I am ok I can be the best in time trials now.”

Martin was a key member of Cavendish’s leadout train for four years at High Road and said he welcomes the Manxman’s arrival at Omega Pharma.

“Mark is the world’s best sprinter, so it is good to help him win as many stages,” Martin said. “Having him on the team is better for everyone. It doesn’t change anything for me. I can help in the sprints and still ride my time trials.”

How Omega Pharma forms a train for Cavendish remains to be seen. At High Road, Martin played a key role in driving a high pace in the closing kilometers to shut down any late-stage breakaways and keep Cavendish and his set-up men well positioned at the front of the pack.

That scenario is likely to play out again as Cavendish gets a feel for his new teammates. Algarve will see Martin and Cavendish racing together for the first time since High Road shuttered in late 2011.

After Algarve, Martin’s next major test will come at Paris-Nice in early March.

This year’s route doesn’t feature the kind of power TT courses that he prefers. Instead, there is a short, explosive prologue and a final-day climbing time trial up the Cat. 1 Col d’Eze. He won the “Race to the Sun” in 2011 as part of his breakout season.

“I can ride for GC in some races, like Paris-Nice,” he said. “The Tour is too hard for me this year, so I can try to win some time trials and help the team. The big goal is to win a third world title.”

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