One day down, one day to go. Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) came through the Tour of Poland’s toughest mountain stage with a reduced lead but still on top of the overall classification, and confident of his chances of taking his first ProTour stage race win on Saturday.
In the last 60 kilometres, Martin’s squad were put under pressure as the attacks came thick and fast, but none barring a very late move by solo stage winner Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) actually worked out.
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The young Dutchman moved up to third overall as a result, but is not at all confident of his chances on tomorrow’s final stage to Krakow, almost certain to end in a bunch sprint.
Martin’s key rival instead will almost certainly be Slovenian all-rounder Grega Bole, third on the stage at seven seconds, which earned the Lampre rider a four second time bonus into the bargain and second overall.
Bole crashed immediately after the line, slightly hurting his wrist and right hip, but he said the damage was more to his pride than to his body.
Martin crossed the line in seventh place, nine seconds back, meaning the overall classification is even tighter – with Martin leading by eight seconds ahead of the Lampre rider, with Mollema in third, ten seconds back.
But regardless of what happens on Saturday’s stage, Martin was in an upbeat mood after coming well through Friday’s many and varied challenges.
Quite apart from being a stage of over 230 kilometres if you included (as riders do) the neutralised section, factor in barely a metre of flat in the last 100 kilometres a dodgy final circuit complete with a narrow, twisting descent, atrocious weather, (including hail, rain and thunderstorms) mid-way through the stage, and numerous attacks from his opponents and it made for quite a tough day at the office.
Thankfully the rain held off on the last 11 kilometre circuit, otherwise as Martin said, “it could have been pretty rough.”
“I felt good all day, way better than yesterday and the boys [team-mates] put on an incredible show.”
“In the last part everyone was attacking us but we got through.”
A dangerous move by contender Marek Rutkiewicz (Polska-BGZ) gained him 35 seconds and made the Pole virtual leader on the road, but finally Garmin-Transitions managed to peg him back before Mollema took off and Martin led the chase in person for the last couple of kilometres.
“Mollema going actually suited us in some ways because that way nobody else would attack,” Martin explained. “We tried to keep him close but not too close and it worked out fine.”
Looking towards tomorrow, Martin said “I know Grega’s fast in a sprint, and I hope I can hold on, but in any case I don’t think he’s as fast as Greipel.”
Even before the stage had started, Martin also had formed part of a homage to the victims of Auschewitz-Birkenau concentration camp in which riders had stopped and laid flowers at the gates of the camp.
“It was an incredible moment, very moving and I hope we did it justice,” Martin said.
“To be able to do that in the yellow jersey was very important.”
Tour of Poland 2010, stage six: Oswiecim to Terma Bukowina Tatrz, 228.5km
1. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank in 5-54-30
2. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Columbia at 7 secs
3. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team at same time
5. Tiago Machado (Por) Team Radioshack at 9 secs
6. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions
8. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky
9. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Doimo
10. Marek Rutkiewicz (Pol) Poland BGZ at same time
Overall classification after stage six
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions
2. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 8 secs
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 10 secs
4. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Columbia at 20 secs
5. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team at 21 secs