Egoi Martinez proved on Wednesday in the Tour of Spain that even in the post-Lance Armstrong era, his Discovery Channel team are a force to be reckoned with in all three major stage races. After making it into breaks all day, the 28-year-old Spaniard cruised home in Burgos for an impressive lone win on the Vuelta?s stage eleven.
?We?ve now had stage wins in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta this year.? Martinez, usually lmited to domestique duties in the Discovery squad, pointed out afterwards, ?plus we?ve led in all three major Tours.?
Martinez, winner of the Tour de L?Avenir in 2003, was on the attack on the 173 kilometre ride from Torrelavega to Burgos all day, and he finally went clear alone from a group of 13 on the second first category cllimb of the day, the Puerto del Escudo after 67 kilometres.
Vlodomir Gustov (CSC) and Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bridged across a little later to Martinez as the race then headed through rain and hailstorms south towards Burgos.
Any expectations that the bunch would up the pace behind on the long haul through high moorland to Burgos that followed the first mountainous third of the stage were not realistic.
The presence of points jersey leader Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) in the 10-man break left chasing the trio ahead meant that his team were logically not prepared to do any work behind. Plus with nine other squads as well as Credit Agricole represented in the chasing break, there was little chance of any alliance holding in the main bunch in any case.
The three-man move of Martinez, Gustov and Landaluze came as close as 13 kilometres to Burgos before the Discovery Channel rider took off alone again.
Neither of the two chasers – as is so often the case – could agree on who should put in the spadework to catch Martinez, and ultimately he had a lead of nearly a minute by the finish, more than enough to do up his maillot and wave at the crowd before crossing the line.
?It?s been a long time since I last won a race, but doing it on home soil means it?s been worth the wait.? Martinez observed afterwards.
Overall, with the bunch trailing in 15 minutes behind, there was no major change, with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne-Illes Balears) continuing to lead, although one major star 2005 winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank), did not start because of stomach problems.
Thursday?s 169 kilometre stage from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara is largely flat and – unless echelons form on the exposed, often windy terrain north-west of Madrid – should see the race?s first bunch sprint in nearly a week.