Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) could not have been more satisfied after claiming a superb stage win on the Covatilla climb on Sunday in the Vuelta a Espana – his first ever victory in a major Tour.

As the Irishman pointed out, there were a serious number of top climbers present and to be able to claim such a prestigious win made the future in his Grand Tours look “very exciting.” But he was guarded about his chances of the overall in the 2011 Tour of Spain.

“It was a really fast climb at the start and I tried to stay relaxed,” Martin said.

“When I attacked I didn’t expect to get away, I just wanted to see if they would let me go but it was too windy for me and Nibali to stay away.”

“When they caught us Bradley [Wiggins] was going very strong, he’s going super-strong at the moment.”

“When it’s windy, I had to suffer so badly just to stay there, but when it comes to a sprint at the top of a mountain I already saw in Sierra Nevada I can sprint really well at summit finishes.”

“I was confident and the sprint was quite easy in the end. The team did brilliantly for me all day.”

“But the Vuelta must be the only Grand Tour where you have crosswinds in the mountain days and mountains in the sprint days.”

Twelfth overall, Martin said he was not looking ahead, just wanting to savour the victory for now.

“For the moment I’m not thinking about that. I’ve never ridden a time trial so long before and I hope I’ll go fast enough tomorrow. Hopefully everybody will be tired after today’s stage and that’ll even things out a bit.”

“I prefer just to think about today, never mind the distant future. To be able to win a mountain stage of a Grand Tour is a great thing, and to show myself amongst the best riders in the world here is really exciting.”

Curiously enough the rider who was one of Martin’s most dangerous rivals when the Irishman won the 2010 Tour of Poland – his biggest win prior to today was none other than Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), third in Poland in 2010 and now the new race leader of the Tour of Spain.

Mollema came across the line swearing like a trooper because he had no idea that he was going to be race leader, and wanted the stage win more than anything else, but the 24-year-old Dutchman cheered up when he was told he had earned the right to get on the winner’s podium.

However, he did not seem sure of his chances of staying in the red jersey of race leader with Monday’s time trial coming up.

“Wiggins is the big favourite tomorrow but there are a few hard stages coming up. Maybe I’ll be in the top positions too for quite a while.”

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Related links

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Latest news
Interview: Wiggins looks ahead of crucial three days of Vuelta
Farrar taken to hospital after Vuelta crash
Arvesen quits Vuelta with crash injuries
Anton suffers again but Rodriguez becomes Spain’s top contender
Wiggins pleased with strong ride in Spanish sierras
Cavendish abandons Vuelta a Espana
Cavendish battles on in summer scorcher in Vuelta
Vuelta heads for first major showdown on Tuesday
Matt Goss first rider to abandon Vuelta
Team Sky’s TTT horror on troublesome course
Dan Martin confident and collected as Vuelta team leader
Pro predictions: Who will win the Vuelta?
HTC-Highroad’s reservations about TTT course
Vuelta team time trial start order
Sky plans early start for Vuelta team time trial recon
Wiggins looking to minimise losses in testing Vuelta TTT
Riders voice support for Hushovd over Vuelta exclusion
Cancellara late to Vuelta after being hospitalised by bee sting
Nibali back for victory again in 2011 Vuelta
Wiggins: “I’m in a great position going into the Vuelta”
Wiggins confirmed as Sky leader for the Vuelta
Freire: It’ll be tough in the Vuelta with Cavendish
Hushovd left out of Vuelta; Dan Martin to lead Garmin-Cervelo
Cavendish and Wiggins on provisional Vuelta start list
Climbers set to dominate in 2011 Vuelta
Millar on 2011 Vuelta: ‘Modern-looking and very challenging”
2011 Vuelta set to return to Angliru and Basque country
Angliru back in 2011 Tour of Spain
Hushovd left out of Vuelta; Martin to lead Garmin-Cervélo

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Who’s riding?
Vuelta a Espana 2011 team list

Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports

Stage nine: Martin wins as Wiggins moves further up GC

Stage eight: Rodriguez wins again to take overall lead

Stage seven: Kittel wins chaotic bunch sprint

Stage six: Sagan takes Vuelta stage win in controversial circumstances

Stage five: Rodriguez takes second win for Katusha but Chavanel holds on

Stage four: Moreno wins first mountain skirmish at Sierra Nevada

Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey

Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky

Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery

Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide

Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule

Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule

ITV to show 2011 Vuelta