Dan Martin and his new teammate, Mike Woods, will lead a strong Israel Start-Up Nation squad in the three-stage climbing fest known as the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var.

In their season debut, the two first-rate climbers will get a chance to test their legs on the mountains overlooking the beautiful Cote d’Azur, against high-quality rivals from ten other WorldTour teams.

“I’m just excited to get racing with these guys; it’s probably one of the strongest teams I’ve ridden on for quite some time,” said Martin, who will race alongside Krists Neilands, Hugo Hofstetter, Sep Vanmarcke, Patrick Bevin, Daryl Impey, and Woods. The latter four are new to the team this season and this is their first chance to race together.

The team came to this beautiful (and sunny) part of France feeling what can only be described as “cautious but ambitious.”

“The first goal,” explains ISN Sports Director Lionel Marie, “is to let all the guys go ‘full gas’ to test their limit and see where they are in terms of shape. We hope that by doing that, we will be able to get some results here.”

More specifically, “We will be happy to come away with a stage win here, and if we find ourselves with a chance to go for the GC – even better,” said Sports Director Rene Andre.

The three days of racing will really test our climber’s legs. The first stage, taking place Friday, ends with three consecutive climbs (on the same mountain). Saturday’s stage finishes with a steep 1 km; and to top it all off on Sunday, the riders will complete three thousand meters of ascent over only 134 km!

“We are here to try and get a stage win. Whether it’s for myself or one of the other guys,” says Martin, “I’m just out to enjoy the race, get the kilometers in my legs ahead of the WorldTour races in March. Winter has been good despite it being probably the coldest I have endured; I managed to get some good work done at home in Andorra, and then came the great team camp.”

Canadian Mike Woods will undoubtedly find the climbs to his liking, but he insists that the main goal lies in getting the race feel. “I am in good form and want to do well, but I will deem this race a success if I can come out of it feeling like I am back in the groove of racing.”

Woods is looking forward to his debut: “Having signed with ISN back in the late summer, it has been a long wait to finally race for the team. I’m excited to do so!”