Daniel Martin comes third in Volta a Catalunya
The 29-year-old put on a strong and valiant effort throughout the week and notched the team's first podium in the Spanish race.
Daniel Martin was one of the most aggressive riders at this year's Volta a Catalunya, and his strategy paid off, as in the final day of the event he managed to leapfrog Richie Porte in third place. Victorious on La Molina after a spectacular attack, Dan wore the leader's jersey for one day before dropping to fourth following the grueling Port Ainé climb; still, he didn't give up, and helped by a very strong team, which was always there for him, clawed back the seven seconds that were separating him off the podium by going for bonifications at the intermediate sprints in three consecutive days, including on the final one.
The layout of the last stage (Barcelona – Barcelona, 136.4 km) was the one expected, with a big break getting clear, and a counterattack group leaving from the pack on the final laps in Barcelona, where the riders climbed on the Montjuic (2 km, 5.7%) eight times, in an attempt to make the junction. Also some of the GC riders tried their luck on this short and action-packed day, with the likes of Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) surging to the front, but Dan Martin was always there, responding immediately and making sure they won't get any space. The one who took advantage of this status quo was Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha), who won the stage ahead of Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling).
The chasers finished only 14 seconds adrift, and Dan Martin was there, securing his third place in the overall standings, behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Dan, who's one of the best riders in the recent history of Volta a Catalunya, gave Etixx – Quick-Step its first ever GC podium in the Spanish race, and by doing this wrote a small piece of history, which is even more impressive considering it came in such a star-studded event, which had at the start many of the riders who are targeting the Tour de France in July.
"This morning, the goal was to try and go for the first bonification sprint to get a few seconds and grab the third place. The team did a great job with a perfect lead-out, but Thomas De Gendt anticipated us and I came third, taking only one second. At that point we began focusing on the stage. This is a strange circuit, and to be honest, today I wanted to go for the sprint. The last laps were really complicated and hectic, with a lot of attacks of the GC guys. There was also headwind in the final kilometers and it was difficult to make the difference. My plan was to attack on the last lap to get some more seconds, but Tejay van Garderen made his move earlier and I used the energy I had at that point to close the gap on him and save my third place. Considering everything, I must admit that I'm happy", said a delighted Dan Martin at the end of the 96th edition of the Volta a Catalunya, which saw his land his maiden World Tour podium of the season.
The Irish rider, who so far this year has amassed 18 racing days in the Etixx – Quick-Step jersey, talked also of his schedule for the next weeks: "Now I will head to the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and stick to my original race plan in order to prepare the Ardennes Classics. Pais Vasco is an event I will discover again, considering I'm returning here for the first time since 2012, and we'll see what the race will bring."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele