Martin climbs to landmark win
Drama aplenty on absorbing climb to La Covatilla
By Jonathan Turner. Last Updated: September 4, 2011 12:41pm
Martin: Rode a great race tactically and rewarded with first Grand Tour success
Garmin-Cervelo's Dan Martin took his first Grand Tour win on an exhilarating ninth stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Team Sky duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome put themselves right into overall contention with top-five finishes.
The 183 kilometres stage from Villacastin to Sierra de Bejar had been expected to again favour overall leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), with the final climb up to the ski resort at La Covatilla always set to be decisive.
It was on that ascent that Martin and Nicolas Roche (AG2R) attacked with just under 5km remaining but rather than the likes of Rodriguez leading the chase it was Froome and Wiggins who then perfectly exploited crosswinds in the final 3km to the summit to blast the race to pieces.
Froome put in a huge turn on the front to first reel in the escape duo and then put distance into the rest before Wiggins took over approaching the flamme rouge - and for a moment it looked as if he was going to ride everyone off his wheel and take the stage win.
But Martin was one of just three other riders who were able to stay with the Team Sky duo and he pounced past in the final stages to sprint to a memorable triumph.
Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) went with him and the time gained with his second place proved enough to snatch the leader's jersey by a second from Rodriguez.
Juan José Cobo (Geox) was third, with Wiggins four seconds back in fourth and Froome a further three seconds behind him in fifth.
It was then a question of how much time the leading quintet had gained on the remaining GC contenders and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) limited his losses as he came in next, 11 seconds behind Martin, but Rodriguez was 50 seconds adrift.
It was an astonishing stage and the perfect boost for Wiggins and Froome ahead of Monday's 47km time trial around Salamanca.
The GC shake-up saw Wiggins move into 13th, exactly a minute behind Mollema, with Froome a place and three seconds further back.
Time trial mode
Not surprisingly Wiggins was delighted with how the stage had panned out, telling www.teamsky.com: "Today had originally been about me trying to limit my losses as much as possible to guys like Van den Broeck and Rodriguez but I surprised myself.
"I didn’t think I’d be as good as that as it was the first all-out summit finish I’d done since the Dauphiné. Obviously Sierra Nevada came earlier this week but everyone cancelled each other out a bit on there.
"I’m delighted with how things went and once I saw people were in difficulty behind I went into time trial mode and tried to take as much time off them as possible."
Wiggins now has his eye on Monday's time trial but first he was keen to pay a heartfelt tribute to his team-mates, adding: "Tomorrow is where I am expecting to make most of my gains and everything I earned here was a bonus – it was a fantastic finish and it couldn’t have gone any better.
"The team were brilliant again as well and Froomey is shining; he’s really come to the fore now and has proved his worth. It was phenomenal to see and the rest of the boys have not put a foot wrong all week – I haven’t had to lift a finger and even though I’ve been nervous at times they coaxed me through it and put me in the right position when it’s mattered.
"We’re all looking forward to tomorrow now because it’s what we do best; we’ll get out there and give it everything. What happened today will have been demoralising for a few of the GC contenders, especially those weaker time triallists who will have to go out there tomorrow for an hour by themselves."