Dan Martin surged to his first Grand Tour victory in Sunday’s mountaintop finish at La Covatilla in the 183km ninth stage at the Vuelta a España.
The victory confirms that Martin is one of the fastest riders on mountaintop finishes, where he can put his fast finishing speed to good use.
“There are some of the best climbers in the world here, so to win this stage means a lot for me,” Martin said.
“I know I am good in small groups like this. I showed I can do it at Sierra Nevada (in stage 4) when I was third in the stage. It’s exciting for the future, but I prefer to think about the present. I am taking this Vuelta day-by-day. I am enjoying this victory right now.”
Martin revealed he had good legs early on the 18.2km final climb and powered away with about 6km to go against strong headwinds. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali followed him and the pair opened up a promising, 15-second lead.
A chase group reeled them in with about 2km to go and Martin wisely tucked in behind in the lead group of six to conserve his strength for the final sprint.
Martin jumped clear in the final 150 meters to go celebrate the most important victory so far in his career. With a 20-second time bonus, Martin climbed into 12th overall at 55 seconds behind new race leader Bauke Mollema.
Martin also claims the best climber’s jersey in the winning effort.
Garmin-Cervélo sport director Bingen Fernández said the team rode well to protect Martin until the base of the climb.
“The team did a great job to protect Dan all day during the stage. There was a lot of wind and everyone did fantastic work throughout the
day,” he said. “This victory for Daniel brings a lot of satisfaction. It confirms that he can win against a world-class field in a grand tour. The wind made it difficult, but Martin rode the perfect tactics. When they caught, he stayed protected inside the bunch and then attacked to win.”
Garmin-Cervélo’s Murilo Fischer did not start. The Brazilian broke a finger in his hand from a crash in stage 8.
The 66th Vuelta continues Monday with the 47km individual time trial at Salamanca. Martin will be riding to try to defend his strong
position in the overall standings.
“I am very content with this victory,” Martin said. “Tomorrow’s stage will be the first time I have done a time trial so long and so flat, so we will see how I can do. There are some mountains in this Vuelta, so hopefully we can keep moving up.”
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