Mission accomplished: Garmin rider Dan Martin finished the Tour of Catalonia in the second position overall that he has held since Thursday?s crucial mountain stage. For Martin, it?s his best and biggest result in a ProTour race - so far.
?I sort of feel like I?ve arrived,? Martin told Cycling Weekly, after finishing on the podium of cycling's second oldest stage race, and which has had past winners of the calibre of Miguel Indurain, Sean Kelly, Robert Millar, Eddy Merckx, Luis Ocaña and Jacques Anquetil.
?Before I?d performed as well in equally difficult races, but they?d been in events that don?t have the international impact of a big ProTour race like the Tour of Catalonia.?
Martin?s big chance came on stage four where he launched an all-out attack on the race?s one mountain top finish, in Pal.
His move was chased down in person by race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne), but Martin still rocketed up the classification to second overall.
?A lot of riders came up to congratulate me afterwards, not so much for the result but for having the guts to attack Valverde,? Martin said.
"I could have sat there and settled for top ten, as it was I tried to get the lead."
The gc stayed stable for the next three days as the race headed towards Barcelona and a finish at Montmelo motor racing circuit on Sunday. Although the racing was fast, averaging over 43 kmh each day and the terrain very hilly, the flat run-ins on each of the last three stages, as well as some strong headwinds, made it very difficult for any moves to go clear.
Martin finished 15 seconds behind Valverde, with Haimar Zubeldia (Astana) taking third, 22 seconds back. The final stage was won by New Zealand?s Greg Henderson (Columbia-Highroad) in a bunch sprint.
?It would have been great to get the lead at Andorra, but to honest it would have been very tough to defend,? Martin said.
?We had a strong team here, but Caisse D?Epargne, who were the strongest squad, were pushed to the limit defending Valverde?s advantage, and that says it all.?
?It was a very difficult race, and I?m really pleased that I could be up there doing so well.?
Final overall classification
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Slipstream at 15 seconds
3. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana at 22 seconds
4. Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 34 seconds
5. José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervelo Test Team at 38 seconds
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