Dan Martin became the sixth Quick-Step Floors rider to raise his arms in triumph in 2017, narrowly getting the better of Primoz Roglic atop the Alto da Fóia at the Volta ao Algarve. The 30-year-old's stage win is the 12th victory of the season for the Belgian WorldTour team who are on track to match its 57 victories of 2016.
Martin's win came 24 hours after Colombian Fernando Gaviria sprinted to stage 1 success and like his teammate, he also secured the leader's yellow jersey along with the stage victory. It was also the first victory by an Irishman at the the 2.HC stage race in its 43 year history.
"It's always difficult to win a race when people say you are the favourite, but I was lucky to have an incredible team around me. That was a fantastic teamwork, you could see that even Fernando, who was in yellow, rode in the wind for me," said Martin of the victory.
At the base of the Alto da Foia climb, where the stage would be decided, Quick-Step Floors upped the tempo to thin the peloton down to just a handful of riders through the work of Zdenek Stybar and Enric Mas. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), and Roglic were the only riders able to handle the Quick-Step Floors pace set by Stybar and neo-pro Mas before Martin turned the screws and jumped clear with the LottoNL-Jumbo man.
Martin and Roglic went mano-a-mano on the steepest sectors of the climb as Kwiatkowski dangled in no man's land. Behind, Amaro Antunes (FC Porto) was trying to bridge across but it was clear the stage win would be decided by the two leader's on the road.
With Martin and Roglic unable to shake other, it came down to a two-up sprint with the Irishman raising his arms in triumph and celebrating Quick-Step Floors' first mountain top win for 2017.
"I arrived here on Sunday and went for a recon on Monday, so I knew the last climb and that it suited me," he said. "It was important to be at the front just as we started it, and the team delivered me in an excellent position. Bottom end, it was a perfect day for us, and I got this nice win which is good for confidence."
Martin will start stage 3 as the race leader, his first leader's jersey since the 2016 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, but is wary of the likes of Roglic in his bid to keep yellow.
"Tomorrow we'll have an individual time trial, and I know that other riders are stronger in this discipline, but we will just see what happen," said Martin, who also leads the points and mountain classifications.