Irishman Dan Martin has gone winless for a full season, but he turned around last year's series of frustrating misses and claimed his first victory with his new Etixx-QuickStep team at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Thursday.
Martin's win came on the 163.3km-long stage 2 from Castellon to the top of the Alto de Fredes, where the breakaway had been caught as the climb kicked in. Team Sky kept a flurry of attacks in check for race leader Wout Poels, but Martin bided his time on the 17km ascent, finally shaking his last challenger in sight of the line.
"With 3 kilometers to go, there was a flat section which was really fast," Martin said. "Many riders used it to come to the front, and at one moment I was badly positioned. Then I moved up, [Daniel] Navarro attacked and when I looked up and saw we are entering the last kilometer, I decided to give it a go.
“I sprinted three times, and in the last 250 meters, which were in a downhill, I already knew I had won. The victory came also as a result of the excellent job of my team, with the guys being fantastic throughout the day.”
Martin won the stage with a two-second gap on Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Poels, whose overall race lead was not threatened by Martin, who lost 1:02 in the opening time trial on Wednesday. The Irishman moved into the lead in the mountains classification.
The win was the Etixx-QuickStep team's fifth of the season, following a team time trial victory and a stage win in Tour de San Luis, one in Mallorca by Gianluca Brambilla, and Marcel Kittel's sprint victory in the Dubai Tour, and Martin credited the success with bringing him into a winning frame of mind.
“When you see your teammates winning, you begin thinking it’s possible also for you to do it," he said. "That’s what is so good about Etixx – QuickStep as a team, the atmosphere, and the mentality. Everybody wants to land victories all the time, regardless of the race, and to get them gives you a lot of confidence."
Martin joined Etixx-QuickStep after racing with the Slipstream organisation for the first 10 seasons of his career. He told Cyclingnews from his first team camp that he "felt reinvented", and it shows - his first win of the year came in his second day of racing with the Belgian team.