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Roche tips Martin to challenge

All British eyes will be on Team Sky's Chris Froome at the Tour de France, but a Birmingham-born Irishman is capable of upsetting the odds, according to one former winner.

Dan Martin is expected to be confirmed in the Garmin-Sharp Tour team this week and is being backed by 1987 champion Stephen Roche for a successful three weeks in France. There is a caveat to Roche's comments: he is Martin's uncle. But there is no doubt the 26-year-old is a prodigious talent, who earlier this year won fabled one-day race Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

"Dan is capable of anything," HotChillee ambassador Roche told Press Association Sport. "Dan's capable of winning the Tour, more than capable of winning one, two, three stages, maybe."

He added: "Dan is one of those riders who you don't want to give too much time to. He's the kind of rider on his day who can rise to the occasion. If he gets in a lucky break and gets five, 10 minutes up, it would be very hard to get them back."

Martin is likely to play a key mountain support role to Garmin-Sharp team-mate Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d'Italia champion, but the Irishman is capable of seizing any opportunity.

"Dan's the kind of guy who will look for those lucky breaks," Roche added. "He isn't the kind of guy who would say, 'The Tour's not for me, it's too big for me'.

"I know deep down he's thinking, 'I can win this'. They will underestimate him a little bit, but at the same time, Dan's the kind of guy that even if they do give him the recognition that he deserves, he can slip away.

"He's the kind of guy where you don't see him and he's gone. He can hide very well and can make himself forgotten easily. He's one of these guys who is a joker for any big tour, capable of winning stages, sourcing the lucky break and gaining some time.

"He's very consistent. We saw that in the Tour of Spain two years ago (when Martin finished 13th). He's getting stronger and stronger and definitely this year a top-10 contender."

Another Irishman, Nicolas Roche, faces a new experience at the Tour. The son of the 1987 winner is used to leading a team at the Tour and carrying the expectations, but this time around will be riding for two-time champion Alberto Contador in the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team.

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