Dan Martin diary . . . three-second gain secures sixth place

‘Unfortunately the 2012 world road race champion Philippe Gilbert just pipped me at the line, getting past for fifth‘

The pack in action during the seventh stage of the  Vuelta a Espana cycling tour, over 169km from Alhendin to Alcaudete, southern Spain.  Photograph: Javier Lizon

The pack in action during the seventh stage of the Vuelta a Espana cycling tour, over 169km from Alhendin to Alcaudete, southern Spain. Photograph: Javier Lizon


That was a nice turnaround. After unexpectedly losing time on Thursday’s sixth stage I felt a lot better yesterday and was able to jump away from the main bunch on the final drag up to the line and gain three seconds.

It was just a case of ‘Why not?’ Coming to the end I preferred to make the attack rather than to have to try to follow somebody else’s move hold on to the wheel. I was a bit surprised because when I went I went quite early; but I managed to go all the way to the line.

Four riders were clear in the day’s break, including my team- mate Ryder Hesjedal, so I was going for fifth. Unfortunately the 2012 world road race champion Philippe Gilbert just pipped me at the line, getting past. So I was sixth.

I had a laugh with him afterwards, because he was desperately trying to get around me for the placing. It was a good bit of fun. It is nice to be able to sprint, because you never know when you have to sprint for the win. With that in mind it is good to open it up every now and again.

The lights just went out For sure I felt a lot better than at the end of Thursday’s mountain stage. What was peculiar was that I was initially feeling really good in the first two kilometres of the climb and didn’t feel like I was on the limit, but then suddenly the lights just went out and I couldn’t pedal any more. I think I just overheated; it was about 40 degrees on the climb. It was a really strange sensation.

I lost 59 seconds in those two kilometres and while I got just three seconds back yesterday it was still a nice way to show to myself that I have recovered. The good thing is that I am still quite close: I’m 17th overall, one minute and 34 seconds off the race lead of Alejandro Valverde and just 28 seconds off 10th place. Things are still tight and those gaps are really not significant.

It is a very long race and there are still two time trials and seven mountaintop finishes to go. The current gap to Valverde is going to be nothing at the end of three weeks’ racing, so there is still everything to play for.

The nature of stage racing is that it is very changeable, and also unpredictable. I think everybody will have a bad day at some point during the race. That’s especially the case for the guys who have come from the Tour de France or had longer seasons than me. Some of them have done twice as much racing as I have this year. They are sure to have a bit fatigue in their legs come the third week and hopefully I can take advantage of that.

It was disappointing that my Hesjedal crashed close to the finish yesterday. He was part of the break and earlier he rode really well to make it into the move. The start was very hard, he went full gas up the first climb and got clear. He was close to the end of the stage and lost his wheel on a sweeping left hand bend. What’s frustrating is that the way he was riding he would have been very much in the hunt for the stage win. Team will try again Perhaps it would have been close between him and the guy who took it, Alessandro De Marchi, because De Marchi is very good rider. However, Ryder was definitely on an amazing day and a finish like that really suits him. So it is really unfortunate that he didn’t get the chance to go for the win. The team will try again for sure.

One of the big stories of the day was the crash of Chris Froome. He fell right in front of me and I had to stop and then get going again just when the pace was getting really fast.

Some people were saying afterwards that Valverde’s Movistar team deliberately tried to ride to distance Froome. I don’t think that was the case. Don’t forget that there were many attacks at the time and Movistar were just trying to control things. I don’t think they were going to just sit up and let 20 guys ride away, because obviously it was going to be a ridiculously hard day then. I didn’t really see anything untoward in what they did.

Once they got to the top of the climb and the smaller group was clear, they backed off the pace and Sky quickly got back. To be honest, most of the guys didn’t even know Froome had crashed, including his own team-mates.

Tomorrow’s stage is a mountain finish and I’ll try to do well there, but before then we have a tricky stage today. There is going to be a crosswind all day, and with the race being on big, wide wind-exposed roads, it is going to be very nervous, very dangerous and very fast. There will be a chance of splits in the bunch and we’ll have to be very attentive.

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