Courage catapults Dan Martin to stage victory in Volta a Catalunya
Today's stage 4 of the 2013 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya took the peloton on a 219 kilometer ride from Llanars, across a range of wintry, snowy mountains to the eventual climax of the stage on the 19 kilometer climb to the finish in Port Ainé - 2000 meters above sea level.
The hostilities started early when a group of 25 riders attacked after about an hour. The breakaway group featured eventual stage winner Martin who proved that early attacks can still pay off. "Beautiful day in cataluna. Should make for great watching," Martin wrote on Twitter before the stage.
Team Saxo-Tinkoff's Nicolas Roche showed strong form when he attacked late in the race. Unfortunately for him he was passed by Martin, Lotto-Belisol's Jürgen Van Den Broeck and Team Blanco Pro Cycling's Robert Gesink, who were all stronger than Roche, who eventually faded.
On the final Port Ainé climb, Martin showed incredible and admirable persistence when he managed to fight his way to the stage finish in solo fashion without showing any sign of faltering for even a second. Ferocious chasers Van Den Broeck, Nairo Quintana Rojas (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha Team) and Gesink left Martin absolutely no room for even a short deceleration - the Irishman would fight all the way to the finish line.
"I am more surprised than anyone," a happy and tired Martin commented after being celebrated on the podium. "Winning out of a long breakaway is never easy. After having a bad day yesterday I just gave everything. I never expected to take the race lead."
"I had Ryder (Hesjedal) in the break with me. This victory is really thanks to him, because he was pulling for me all day and I really didn’t have to take any pulls at all in the group," Martin continued. "He’s the Giro d'Italia champion and he’s stronger than me. To have him pull for me made the difference later."
Overall race leader Valverde of Team Movistar crashed with teammate Eros Capecchi midway through the stage and unfortunately both were forced to abandon the race due to the injuries they had sustained in the crash.
"Now that my body has warmed down the thing that hurts me the most is my hip. All my left side has damages, but since I crashed, apart from feeling a bit dizzy, that body part is the one that suffered the most. We knew that it was a tricky descent, but we were at the front, pushing. Capecchi crashed and I couldn't avoid hitting him. It was a pretty hard impact, even more for him, because I almost fell over him. It seems like I'm not a lucky man when it comes to my Volta appearances," Valverde explained.
Following today's stage Martin leads the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya by 10 seconds to Rodriguez. Quintana Rojas is in 3rd position, 32 seconds behind Martin.
Martin's Garmin-Sharp American teammates Peter Stetina and Tom Danielson both delivered strong performances on the final climb, finishing 7th and 9th, respectively, which led to the Garmin-Sharp team winning today's teams competition by more than 2 minutes.
For our US-based readers we have video highlights from the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya all week in our videos section. New clips are added every evening, so clips from Martin's win are coming.