Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) won stage nine of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana at the summit of La Covatilla this afternoon as Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins rode brilliantly to finish fourth.
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Martin jumped out of a small group containing Wiggins and team-mate Chris Froome, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Geox-TMC duo Jose Cobo and Denis Menchov.
Mollema took second with Cobo in third, while Wiggins finished four seconds back.
Race leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) lost touch with the leading group 3km from the finish, and conceded the race leader’s red jersey to Mollema.
A family affair
The peloton were all together when Martin attacked 5km from the the summit of the hors catégorie finishing climb, and was immediately followed by his cousin Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
The pair initially worked well together until Roche lost contact; sensing an opportunity, Nibali jumped out of the bunch and soon caught the lone leader.
It took a while for a reaction to come from the chasers, and when it did it was from Froome, who once again worked tirelessly for Wiggins.
Before long, the now whittled-down chasing group were notably not only catching the leading duo, but also putting race leader Rodriguez in difficulty. It was therefore no surprise when he lost contact with the chasers shortly before the finish.
Froome was still driving the group on while Wiggins continued to look extremely comfortable, evoking memories of his largely-unexpected performance on the road to Andorra during the 2009 Tour de France.
Once they had bridged the gap to the leaders, Wiggins took over the pace-setting for the final 1.5km in an attempt to gain as many seconds on Rodriguez and the likes of Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as possible.
Although Martin rounded him on the approach to the finish, followed by Mollema and Cobo, he can be more than happy with his ride, particularly going into tomorrow’s 47km individual time trial.
Rodriguez came home 48 seconds later, meaning he now trails Mollema by a slender second on the GC.
Wiggins moved up to 13thoverall, 1-00 off the pace with Froome just one place – and three seconds – back.
Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage nine: Villacastin – La Covatilla, 183km
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervélo in 4-52-14
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at same time
3. Jose Cobo (Spa) Geox-TMC at 3 sec
4. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 4 sec
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 7 sec
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 11 sec
7. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 12 sec
8. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack
10. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana all at st
136. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky at 18-46
Overall classification after stage nine
1. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1 sec
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 6 sec
4. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana at 16 sec
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 27 sec
6. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 35 sec
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 37 sec
8. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quick Step at 42 sec
9. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack at st
10. Jose Cobo (Spa) Geox-TMC at 46 sec
13. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) at 1-00
14. Chris Froome (GBr) at 1-03
148. Ian Stannard (GBr) at 1-36-02
Chris Froome leads Bradley Wiggins
Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche go on the attack
Dan Martin wins
Bauke Mollema takes the overall lead
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Vuelta a Espana 2011: Stage reports
Stage seven: Kittel wins chaotic bunch sprint
Stage six: Sagan takes Vuelta stage win in controversial circumstances
Stage five: Rodriguez takes second win for Katusha but Chavanel holds on
Stage four: Moreno wins first mountain skirmish at Sierra Nevada
Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey
Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky
Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
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
Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule
Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
ITV to show 2011 Vuelta