Dan Martin, riding for top French club VC La Pomme Marseille, boosted his climbing credentials by winning the king of the mountains and finishing fourth in the under-23 Ronde Isard, a race that uses many of the Pyrenean climbs of the Tour de France.
Martin (21), from Lichfield, but who rides under an Irish racing licence, was second to overall winner American John Devine on the decisive second stage to Guzet Niege. ?I was behind a breakaway group at the start of the climb when I attacked and caught all but one of the break. I won the sprint for second in torrential rain and thunder and lightening. ? Martin told cyclingweekly.co.uk
Those conditions caused the cancellation of the third stage, leaving only a time trial, during which Martin dropped down the overall classification, and the final stage to St Girons.
?It was 150 kilometres and we had to climb the Col d?Agnes and Col de Core,” Martin said of the final stage. “The team attacked on the first descent of the day trying to isolate the leader. Then the plan was for me to attack as our strongest climber, which I did on the steep bit at the top of the Col d?Agnes. I got a good lead and caught a Colombian, who had been away on his own on the descent. We worked together and I won the points at the top of the next climb to get the polka dot jersey. I then put everything into staying away and moved up to fourth overall, although the Colombian won the sprint,? says Martin.
The Ronde Isard is one of the most hotly contested espoir races in France, and many of the successful riders have found places in ProTour teams, including Martin?s cousin Nicolas Roche who was 8th in 2004, Dave Zabriske (sixth 2000) and Thor Hushovd (fifth 1999).