Martin extends lead in Volta

Irish rider now 14 seconds ahead with two stages remaining in Volta a Catalunya

Ireland’s Dan Martin

Ireland’s Dan Martin

 

Expected to face attacks from all of his main rivals after he took over the race lead, Dan Martin turned the tables on them on the fifth stage of the Volta a Catalunya and boosted his chances of winning overall in the process.

The Irish pro rode calmly on a 156.5 kilometre stage to Lleida, with his Garmin-Sharp team allowing a two man break of Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol) and Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) to go clear 55 kilometres in. Martin later jumped ahead to pick up the time bonus of one second for third place in the intermediate sprint at Alfarras, increasing his lead over his rivals.

After the leading duo were brought back, Canadian rider Francois Parisien (Argos Shimano) won a big group gallop to the line, taking the biggest victory of his career.

Martin continued to push hard all the way to the line and in addition to taking ninth on the stage, his efforts saw him further increase his overall lead as behind him, splits in the bunch ensured that his competitors lost further time.

Rodriguez conceded a further three seconds and is now 14 seconds back overall. As for third-placed Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and fourth-placed Bradley Wiggins (Sky), last year’s Tour de France champion, they each dropped nine seconds. With Martin’s intermediate time bonus factored in, Quintana is now a distant 42 seconds back, while Wiggins is a further four seconds behind.

“It was a bit unexpected, but a nice surprise when they told me on the podium about the time I’d gained. I knew about the bonus second in the intermediate sprint, but the gaps in the peloton were a nice bonus,” Martin told The Irish Times . “I think it’s quite an important psychological boost, and it will probably affect their morale.

Gaps opened
“I knew that corner with 300 metres to go was dangerous. I was a bit scared that there could be a crash, so I stayed as close to the front as I could and the gaps opened behind me.”

Two stages remain in the race and due to their lumpy profile, Martin and his Garmin-Sharp team will have to be vigilant. Saturday’s stage travels 179 kilometres to Valls and includes two climbs, the first category ascent of the Alt de Prades and the second category Alt de Lilla. The latter is just over 10 kilometres from the line.

As for Sunday’s stage, the riders will scale the steep Montjuic hill in Barcelona eight times. “We are expecting attacks everywhere but we have one of the strongest teams in the race, if not the strongest team,” he said.

“We are leading the team classification by over two minutes and that shows the strength of the team. The danger tomorrow is that a big group could get clear at the start and gain time so we have to be careful about that.”

Tomorrow’s stage to Barcelona concludes with eight ascents of the tough Montjuic hill. “For sure that will be more decisive and is going to be a big battle against Joaquim and the others. However, I’ve got extra time now and if the legs are good, I think it will work out fine,” he said. “It’ll come down to how my legs feel on those climbs.”
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