Dan Martin’s Vuelta Diary: A frustrating finish in a surreal setting

Elephants and Zebra aplenty but stage win remains an endangered species

 The pack in action during the 13th stage of the Vuelta a Espana  from Belorado to  Cabarceno yesterday. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

The pack in action during the 13th stage of the Vuelta a Espana from Belorado to Cabarceno yesterday. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

 

Two attacks towards the end, but a final finishing position of ninth place; I definitely felt frustrated after the end of yesterday’s stage from Belorado to Cabarceno. It was a lumpy one which ended up being a lot faster than we had expected, and which had three climbs before the final ramp up to the line.

I was actually really happy with how the legs were in the final section because I didn’t feel good all day. It wasn’t that I felt awful, I just didn’t feel like anything special. Just a bit lethargic. As a result of that I was quite pleased with how I came around at the end.

The finale was pretty complicated due to two short climbs separated by a descent. I hadn’t seen it beforehand but had some sort of knowledge about what it should be like as my Garmin-Sharp team’s sporting director Bingen Fernandez had a video showing the final few kilometres.

We watched that before the start of the stage and it should have helped. Usually it can work quite well. However on this occasion the video looked a bit different to how it was, with the climb on video appearing longer than it actually ended up being.

Holding back

I was like, ‘oh damn.’

I had tried before that point but unfortunately just when I was attacking, the former world number one Joaquim Rodriguez drifted to the right and blocked my path. I had to slam on the brakes and then go a second time. The element of surprise was a bit destroyed by that.

I had deliberately hung back on the climbs, being a bit further back so I could really take a run at them to get some speed up to go past the other riders.

The Spanish rider Daniel Navarro attacked then and in retrospect, I definitely could have gone with him. I am a bit frustrated about that. However I reckon if I had followed him, everyone else would probably have followed me anyway, closing things down. That is the way it goes; you have to play it a bit cagey sometimes, take a gamble.

Once Navarro was clear, it was a question of getting back up to him. I was hoping that maybe Purito [Joaquim Rodriguez] would try to win the stage and go after him a bit earlier, and that I could tag along and use his effort to get back up there.

But that didn’t work out and to see Navarro just dangle out in front of us the whole way was really frustrating.

I tried to go again on a little kicker of a climb with one kilometre to go, but it was Robert Gesink’s turn to get in my way. I got a smaller gap than expected because of that and they were able to cover my move. It really wasn’t my day. Like I said, frustrating.

Summit finishes

I have got the confidence now that those guys can’t drop me if I am feeling good. If I get to the last kilometre with them, I am fast in a sprint. So instead of trying to attack them, I will just stay with them and try to beat them that way.

I think this is the best tactic from now on. Of course that depends on how the race is going; if I see an opportunity I will definitely try to get the jump on them and try to get some time back on them. But for now the stage win is the objective. If I can move up on the general classification, it is just an added bonus.

Apart from the racing aspect, yesterday’s finish was pretty unusual. It was held in the Cabárceno Natural Park, which is a sanctuary for some endangered species and other animals.

I saw a herd of zebras with one kilometre to go; you definitely don’t usually see that. There were also elephants at the finish line.

It was a really beautiful setting, but just not the ideal run-in for a bike race. That last kilometre was hectic. I think it would have been better to have finished it with a kilometre to go; the flat section where I attacked might have been the best place for a finish. Still, nice to see something different around the race!

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