Dan Martin gains three places on Vuelta stage despite injury

Rider cut his leg badly when he went over a guardrail and ended up in a ravine in Spanish race

The pack during yesterday’s  15th stage of the Vuelta a Espana,  held over 152.2km between Oviedo and Lagos de Covadonga in northern Spain. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

The pack during yesterday’s 15th stage of the Vuelta a Espana, held over 152.2km between Oviedo and Lagos de Covadonga in northern Spain. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

 

Dan Martin improved four places in the general classification in the Vuelta a España over the weekend, going from 11th overall on Saturday morning to seventh on yesterday’s 15th stage yesterday evening despite a very dangerous crash.

Martin went over a guardrail and ended up in a ravine, cutting his leg badly and having difficultly in clambering back up to the roadway. He was more than a minute and a half behind the other general classification riders at that point but, with his team riding flat out, was eventually able to make it back up to that group.

Despite the energy he expended in doing so, Martin was one of the strongest on the final climb and finished 28 seconds behind the solo winner and just 18 seconds behind the race leader, Alberto Contador. Placed seventh yesterday, he is also now seventh overall. Philip Deignan was 35th yesterday and is 49th in the general classification.

Gruelling final ascent

Spaniard Contador, who retained the overall leader’s red jersey, battled against the negative tactics of Alejandro Valverde, second overall, and Joaquim Rodriguez to finish a few seconds behind his two compatriots.

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider attacked time and again in the final climb – a 12.2km ascent at an average gradient of 7.2 per cent to Lagos De Covadonga.

But Rodriguez and Valverde refused to co-operate to get rid of Froome, who was struggling a few metres behind.

The Briton limited the damage and still lies third overall, a minute and 20 seconds behind Contador after losing seven seconds to the Spaniard at the end of Sunday’s 152.2km ride.

“At the end of the day he actually lost time to Valverde and Rodriguez but he gained time on Froome,” said Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Tristan Hoffman.

Difficult situation

Frenchman Warren Barguil was the first to shake off a small group of favourites in the final climb but it was Contador who went hard in the final six kilometres.

Froome, who was yo-yoing at the back, appeared to crack several times but always managed to fight his way back, never losing sight of Contador.

The double Tour de France champion, looking to win the Vuelta for the third time, was outsprinted by Valverde and Rodriguez in the finale as the Movistar and Katusha riders snatched six and four seconds of time bonuses respectively.

Niemiec, of the Lampre- Merida team, was the sole survivor of the day’s breakaway and held off the trio of rivals to win the stage, crossing the line five seconds ahead of Valverde and Rodriguez.

Today’s stage is classed as the queen stage, a 160.5km trek to La Farrapona, featuring four categorised climbs. Additional reporting: Reuters

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