Martin goes close to victory in Portugal
Roche plays role in setting up teammate Van Avermaet for stage victory in Oman
Daniel Martin racing in the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. He took fourth in the second stage. Photograph: Getty Images
Dan Martin went close to taking his first victory of the season on Thursday, netting fourth on the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. The Irish UAE Team Emirates rider was one of the strongest on the final climb up to Fóia, going after former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) when he made his move for victory.
Martin had previously tried to attack with 8km to go, and the energy expended then may have cost him the victory.
“I always like to race to win,” he said after the stage. “Unfortunately the victory just slipped away. The important thing, though, is that the team raced well, with authority, with everyone moving with precision and with the right timing. We knew that we had an opportunity to play for the win, and we created the right conditions to try to hit the big target.
“In the final I waited for the sprint. It was important to go into the final curve first, and I was beside Kwiatkowski, but I wasn’t able to move to the right and in that moment I knew that I would not be able to pass him.”
Realising the victory was not possible Martin faded somewhat, and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) slipped past. He took fourth, and is fourth overall behind new race leader Thomas.
The race is Martin’s first of the season, and his strong showing bodes well for the months ahead. His big target is the Tour de France, but he will also seek to peak for the Ardennes Classics in April.
Meanwhile Martin’s first cousin Nicolas Roche played an important role in setting up his BMC Racing teammate Greg Van Avermaet for stage victory at the Tour of Oman. The Belgian duly delivered, and is now the new overall leader.
Roche dug deep in his efforts to help Van Avermaet, and ultimately finished 64th, one minute and 29 seconds back. He is building form for Paris-Nice and, beyond that, the Giro d’Italia.
Meanwhile the funeral took place on Wednesday of Gabriel “Gaybo” Howard, a former Rás Tailteann stage winner and overall contender. He died in a farming accident last week.
Howard played a massive role in Irish cycling after his retirement from competition, including running races, acting as race announcer and providing neutral support at the Rás. A gesture to pay tribute to his contribution will be made at this year’s race, which will take place in May.