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.
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“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.”
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Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports
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