Promising young climber Dan Martin continues to raise the bar with a strong third place in Tour of Catalonia?s first Pyrenean stage - and on Thursday?s mountain-top finish in Pal, he could do even better.
Dan Martin formed part of a group of 10 riders that fought it out in an slightly uphill sprint in La Pobla de Lillet, a tiny village in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The Garmin pro took third behind race leader and stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne) and Spaniard David De La Fuente (Fuji-Servetto), which earned him a four second time bonus. He?s now sixth overall, just 19 seconds back on Alejandro Valverde.
Starting in Roses on the coast, climbing throughout the day and finishing with two first category ascents and a breakneck plunge to La Pobla de Lillet, Wednesday?s 182.8 kilometre stage was destined to sort out the real contenders from the also-rans, and Martin is definitely in the first group.
When Valverde attacked on the last 8.8 kilometre climb of Collada Sobirana - which came complete with extremely rough sections of tarmac, some recently cut branches and even the odd cowpat - Martin kept close to the front.
The front group of riders then came together on a false flat just before the summit, and after a dangerous twisting descent, Martin finally took third on the stage.
?Three of us came here on a training ride last week and that helped a lot because I knew exactly where the bottom of each climb was,? Martin said.
?I was waiting and waiting and then jumped across at the right moment.?
?But the team were awesome too, they rode really well for me and kept me out of the wind all day and I felt as fresh as a daisy.?
?Funnily enough my form?s not quite there yet, normally I?d have been ok with the accelerations on the final climb. I was yo-yoing off the back, but I just hung on.?
?So I?m very happy to be up there and I?ve got the time bonus for third, which is better than fourth.?
Martin says he doesn?t know the biggest climb of the race on Thursday to Pal, but he?s not too worried.
?It?s a mountain top finish, so at the end of the day it?ll be a question of going for as long as you can for as hard as you can and seeing what happens.?
Stage two: Banned in Italy, Valverde leads in Spain
Stage one: Hushovd wins Catalunya opener
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