Dan Martin overheats on La Zubia but overall hopes have not cooled

Irishman looks to bounce back at Vuelta a España

The Vuelta a España’s first summit finish above La Zubia proved to be an unforgiving one for Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), but the Irishman was upbeat about his prospects for the remainder of the race when he lined up for the start of stage 7 in Alhendín on Friday.

Martin had confirmed his pre-Vuelta form with strong showings at Arcos de la Frontera and Córdoba earlier in the week, and his Garmin-Sharp team duly spent much of the afternoon chasing down the break in a bid to set him up for stage victory.

Two kilometres from the summit, however, Martin was dislodged from the shrinking leading group under the impetus of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and he finished the stage 59 seconds down in 18th place. He now lies 17th overall, 1:37 behind Valverde.

“I felt really good until two kilometres to go and then the lights just went out. I was overheated, I think,” Martin told Cyclingnews. “I’m a bit gutted because the guys rode all day for me and I’m in good form, but I just got a bit hot.”

Martin was not the only rider to struggle with the high temperatures in which the Vuelta peloton has basked for successive days since leaving Jerez de la Frontera on Saturday. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Roberto Gesink (Belkin) also confirmed that they had suffered due to the heat, though Martin was reluctant to place too much emphasis on the conditions.

“I don’t want to make excuses because I just didn’t have the legs yesterday,” he said. “It was a strange feeling when I started the climb, and my body just stopped working with 2k to go.”

There was scarcely a curve in the road during the exposed climb from La Zubia, nor was there a moment’s respite once the gradient began to bite, and Martin could draw some solace from the way he managed to limit his losses on the seemingly inexorable final grind to the line.

“I had a kilometre riding a bit easier but I came back strong in the last kilometre,” Martin said. “It’s a small time loss, and we’re going north now so hopefully the conditions will be a bit better for me.”

Martin began the Vuelta as Garmin’s co-leader alongside Ryder Hesjedal, but the Canadian’s general classification aspirations receded when he was caught out in the echelons in the finale of stage 5 and lost three minutes. Hesjedal conceded further ground at La Zubia, and Martin is now the team’s lone option for a high finish in Santiago di Compostela.

“Obviously Ryder’s time loss was a blow but we’ll move on and we’ll definitely come out fighting. We’ll try to get a bit of revenge at some point,” said Martin. “Morale is always good on this team: once we finish the stage, we forget about it and talk about other stuff.”

The Vuelta’s next significant rendezvous comes at Valdelinares on Sunday where the climb to the line is longer (eight kilometres) and steadier (the average gradient is 6.6 per cent) than the short, sharp climb to Alto Cumbres Verdes. Perhaps as importantly, the next two days bring the race northwards out of Andalusia, and – in theory at least – away from the blazing heat of the Spanish summer.

“It’s not as steep as yesterday, I think, and the temperatures should be a bit lower so we’ll have a go again,” Martin said. “It remains to be seen how far I can go in the GC role but we’ll give it our best shot.

“Hopefully that minute lost yesterday will count very little when we’re into the final week. I gave it my best shot and I wasn’t good enough, that’s just the way it goes.”

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