Volta a Catalunya: Martin Takes Charge

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Garmin-Sharp's Daniel Martin won today's queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya surviving out of a long breakaway for the solo victory. Martin scored a 36-second win over favorite Joaquim Rodriguez and Movistar's Nairo Quintana, on a day when Alejandro Valverde crashed out of the overall lead and the race, leaving Martin in position for the final victory.

The day's stage included six significant climbs to Port Aine, in the Catalonian mountains under the shadow of Andorra, and the race broke up fairly quickly, with Martin joining the 23-man breakaway as its best-placed rider (+30"). The break eventually gained four minutes on the peloton, where Valverde and Movistar were controlling matters until the Murcian crashed along with teammate Eros Capecchi on a twisting descent halfway through the stage. Neither were said to be badly hurt but they both stepped off their bikes. That left Sky in control of the chase, and as they hit the final 18km climb to Port Aine they were within a minute of Martin and six other riders, including Nicholas Roche who had been alone in front for the penultimate climb.

But Sky's efforts weren't enough to control the excellent riding of Martin, who lifted the tempo all the way to the line, dropping his break-mates one by one and increasing his lead to 1:30. With 8km to go Martin was alone, and though the chase picked up speed, the Irishman had a comfortable 36 seconds in hand at the end. Quintana, riding brilliantly himself after yesterday's solo victory and now in the leadership role after Valverde's departure, attacked the Sky group and drew out Rodriguez, after Sky captain Bradley Wiggins tried his hand at accelerating, with little to show for it. The Spaniard and the Colombian cracked Sky, to the point where Robert Gesink of Blanco and Jurgen Van Den Broeck of Lotto-Belisol were also able to escape the Sky Clampdown. On the day, Garmin were easily the strongest team, with Peter Stetina and Tom Danielson lurking among the heads of state, albeit with nothing to do once Martin sealed the deal.

For Garmin the win could not have come at a better time. First, with the Volta heading back down to lower altitudes, Martin's chances at the overall win look solid. He holds a mere ten-second lead over Rodriguez and 32" over Quintana, and stages 6 and 7 have enough late climbs to keep the team on edge. But, apart from the thousand things that can go wrong in a stage race, Martin has a strong team around him and no remaining uphill finishes or major climbs where in theory he could be in trouble. Hold Purito's wheel for three days and the win will be in the bag.

Secondly, the result comes as Garmin head into the classics season, where they tend to score some points every year (winning Driedaagse, the Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix in 2010 and 2011) but aren't rated a big favorite. Confidence matters a lot, and when Millar and Farrar got hot in 2010 (along with Christian Vandevelde) it set the team up for a solid Flanders campaign. Now, Martin's win is only the team's second (along with Andrew Talansky's stage win in Paris-Nice) in 2013. I'm not riding the bus but my hunch is they could use a morale boost. They got one today.

Results:

  1. Daniel Martin, Garmin-Sharp
  2. Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 0.36
  3. Nairo Quintana, Movistar, s.t.
  4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Lotto-Belisol, at 0.47
  5. Robert Gesink, Blanco, at 0.51
  6. Bradley Wiggins, Sky, at 1.02
  7. Peter Stetina, Garmin, s.t.
  8. Michele Scarponi, Lampre, s.t.
  9. Tom Danielson, Garmin, s.t.
  10. Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, at 1.08
Current GC:
  1. Martin
  2. Rodriguez, at 0.10
  3. Quintana, at 0.32
  4. Wiggins, at 0.36
  5. Scarponi, at 0.39
  6. Gesink, at 0.51
KOM
  1. Cristiano Salerno, Cannondale, 104 points
  2. Quintana, 51
Points
  1. Christian Meyer, OGE, 12 points
  2. Nicholas Roche, Saxo-Tinkoff, 5
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