Lying 149th overall, three minutes and 35 seconds back on the leader, is not where Dan Martin planned to be at this point in the Vuelta a España. The Garmin Slipstream rider has lost time on three out of four days and is hoping that the race’s move to Spain will see his fortunes improve.
The former Irish road race champion crashed on wet roads in the prologue and then lost 18 seconds when the bunch split on day two. Yesterday’s fourth stage saw him almost go down in an early crash, then puncture approximately 11 kilometres from the finish. The latter caused him to concede time in a series of unfortunate circumstances.
“I was kind of involved in the crash but didn't hit the floor,” he told Cyclingnews. “I managed to stop and put foot to floor while guys continued to pile into me from behind. Later on I punctured at what was absolutely the worst time possible. The group had just split and I got neutral service and no convoy to begin with.
“I was just in the cars getting back when the last crash happened. I had to stop because the road was blocked.
I would have only lost 45 seconds to a minute, but due to the crash it was two minutes and ten seconds.”
The other riders who were delayed due to the mass pile-up close to the finish were given the same time, as per UCI rules. For example, Martin’s compatriot Philip Deignan (Cervélo Test Team) fell and lost four minutes and one second to stage winner Andre Greipel (Columbia HTC), but incurred no losses.
As Martin wasn’t with this group when the crash happened, he could not benefit from the regulation. However the resulting chaos nevertheless added to his deficit and ensured he lost even more time than he otherwise would have.
“It isn't fair and we are going to try and argue it,” he told Cyclingnews, clearly frustrated by how things unfolded. “I’ve had a pretty rough time of it so far. But I guess it’s a long race and a lot can happen.”
Martin is a strong climber, having shown his uphill ability in winning the 2008 Route du Sud and dropping Alejandro Valverde en route to second overall in this year’s Volta a Catalunya. He showed strong form in placing fifth in the GP Ouest France prior to the start of the Vuelta and can still chase a stage win and a high overall placing, even if the latter will be limited by the time losses.
The 23-year-old is frustrated, but looking for the silver lining in his Grand Tour debut. “At least I'm still in it,” he reasoned. “The first goal is to finish as it will help me progress for next year. Now that I've survived Holland in one piece, hopefully the sun will shine and my luck will change.”