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Martin celebrates first Grand Tour stage win

Posted 28 August 2011

Dan Martin claimed his first ever Grand Tour stage win and the lead in the mountains classification while moving to within 55 seconds of the overall lead after an outstanding performance on stage 9 of the Vuelta á Espana.

The Garmin Cervelo rider was on song as the race finished on the hors category climb to La Covatilla attacking twice inside the final five kilometres to put himself right back in the race for the GC.

That Martin achieved his success with a helping hand from cousin Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) was all the more remarkable with the duo combining superbly to take the race to the favourites and overall contenders.

The 18.2 kilometre climb presented the Vuelta’s first real summit finish and the stage was set for a dramatic finale as the chase group of race leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) swept up the last rider of the day’s break with 10 kilometres to go.

Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma Lotto) had initiated the four-man break after 15 kilometres after the peloton had dispensed with the third category climb of the Puerto Cruz del Hierro.

He was joined by Jose Vincente Toribio (Andalucia Caja Granda) after ten kilometres with Vacansoleil DCM riders Martijn Keizer and Pim Ligthart bridging across after 45 kilometres of racing.

The quartet quickly stretched their lead to ten minutres over the slumbering peloton who gradually reduced the deficit to four minutes as the four leaders started into the finishing climb.

The fuse was lit when the race regrouped on the steepest section of the climb and it exploded back into life when Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) attacked with six kilometres to the summit.

Lampre’s Michele Scarponi moved to close the gap with Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma Lotto) on his wheel which was enough to force defending champion Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to shut down the move.

Quickstep’s Kevin Seeldrayers was next to try his hand with Nibali once more covering the move with Van Den Broeck latched to his wheel. The chase group responded within metres and it was at this point that Martin and Roche seized their moment.

Martin accelerated out of the lead group and with Roche in tow set about making their attack count with five kilometres to the summit. Roche did not shy from Martin’s nod to pull on the front with the duo quickly opening a 10 seconds advantage.

Martin found his rhythm and his ferocious pace setting left him out front as Roche lost contact after a kilometre. Once again it fell to Nibali to cover the move and the Italian soon joined Martin in working to establish at 13 seconds lead as the race entered the final three kiolmetres.

They persisted into a strong headwind as the chase, led by Chris Froome in support of the Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins, put Rodriguez and Scarponi out the back door.

The Sky riders made contact after 800 metres with Van Den Broeck, Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Juan Jose Cobo (Geox) in tow.

Martin played a shrewd tactical game as Wiggins, sensing his moment to put time into the struggling Rodriguez, took it upon himself to drive the lead group to the finish line.

The Irishman’s timing was exquisite as he jumped off the Briton’s wheel inside the final 400 metres to claim an outstanding victory and to put his name alongside that of Shay Elliott, Sean Kelly and Philip Deignan as Irish stage winners.

Mollema settled for second place and the bonus seconds which were enough to see him take command of the overall race lead by a single second over Rodriguez who crossed the line over 50 seconds down. Nibali has closed the gap to nine seconds in third place.

Roche meanwhile was far from done and fought hard to stay within a minute’s deficit finishing the stage in 19th position just 47 seconds down. His performance was enough to see him break into the top twenty where he lies 19th at 2’05”

Martin has climbed back up to 12th in the GC ahead of Monday’s 47 kilometres individual time-trial in Salamanca. The Garmin Cervelo rider will start the stage as leader of the mountains classifacation where he leads Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale) by two points.

Results:

2011 Vuelta á Espana

Stage 9: Villacastin – Sierra de Bejar-La Covatilla, 183 kilometres

1.  Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo 4:52:14     
2.  Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team          
3.  Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 0:00:03     
4.  Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:04     
5.  Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07     
6.  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:11     
7.  Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:12     
8.  Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC          
9.  Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack          
10. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana

19. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 47 seconds

General classification after stage 9:

1.  Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 37:11:17     
2.  Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:01     
3.  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:09     
4.  Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana 0:00:18     
5.  Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:27     
6.  Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:35     
7.  Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:37     
8.  Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:42     
9.  Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack          
10. Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 0:00:46     

12. Dan Martin (Irl) Garmin Cervelo at 55 seconds
19. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 2 minutes, 05 seconds

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