Daniel Martin closed out what he called "an incredible day" at the Giro d'Italia today.
The day? Four high-mountain passes, including the final up the Monte Zoncolan. The result? Martin finished ninth at 3-31 behind stage winner Ivan Basso to jump 14 spots in the overall classification.
Not bad for a 23-year-old in his first Grand Tour.
"I just felt really good all day," Martin told Cycling Weekly. "I wanted to try to stay with the GC guys, it is the first time I have tried and experienced these climbs."
Martin backed off in the stage to Asolo yesterday after he failed to make the escape so that he would have energy for the mountaintop finish on Monte Zoncolan.
The Giro d'Italia has only visited this climb three times, but it has quickly become a focal point for fans. There is good reason, the 10.1-kilometre climb boasts gradients up to 22 per cent and in its five-kilometre mid-section averages 15.3 per cent.
"I hit five K to go, I thought, 'It is only five K,' but you look at the speed and think, 'Shit, that is half an hour!' The fans, the noise kept me going, though. It was just great."
"Great," yes. Martin held his own over the first tester of the day, the Passo Duron. The Duron climb split the field and Martin remained in position thanks to the early work by Garmin-Transitions team-mate Julian Dean.
On the Zoncolan, it was as if a bomb exploded. Basso and Cadel Evans rode ahead with six kilometres to race, leaving Michele Scarponi, Alexandre Vinokourov and Marco Pinotti scattered at different points behind.
Martin finished 30 seconds behind yesterday's stage winner Vincenzo Nibali and 10 seconds behind Pinotti.
"I could see Nibali in front of me for the last seven K, and Pinotti as well. Everybody was just trying to get up and to the finish. I thought, "Who the hell built roads like that.' When I arrived to the tunnels [in the final K], it was just a relief.
"But I prefer these days, climbs after climbs, because I just get better. The result came as a surprise, but even back on that first climb, when I looked around to see only 12 guys left, I thought, 'Wow, I must be on a good day.'"
If Martin enjoyed today, he will enjoy the coming week, which includes four more high-mountain stages.
Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit
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