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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Time trial world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) would finish the stage 17 mountain time trial in 27th place, more than three minutes behind Chris Froome
German looks for third successive time trial crown
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) opted to abandon the Vuelta a España on stage 15 in order to prepare for the defence of his individual time trial title at the world championships in Florence later this month.
Saturday’s stage 14 to Andorra had been run off in plummeting temperatures that forced Ivan Basso out with hypothermia. Martin did not want to risk compromising his Worlds preparation by suffering a similar fate on Sunday, and like 2012 world road race champion Philippe Gilbert, he abandoned the Vuelta on the road to Peyragudes.
“After the extremely cold temperatures yesterday [Saturday] and with rain again in the first hour today [Sunday], I have decided in consultation with my team to abandon the Vuelta,” Martin said on his personal website. “The stage on Saturday had a drop in temperature from about 30 degrees to around 4 degrees and it was one of the most unusual I have ever ridden.”
Although Martin was defeated by a flying Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) in the Vuelta’s sole individual time trial, a hilly test at Tarazona, he can take heart from his showing on the road to Caceres on stage 6, when he spent 174 kilometres alone off the front before the peloton caught him inside the final 200 metres.
“Looking ahead to the world championships, I don’t want to take any risks and I don’t want to compromise my form. It was not easy to abandon, but my focus is now entirely on the world time trial championship,” Martin said.
Martin came to the Vuelta with the primary intention of preparing for the Worlds time trial as he bids for a third consecutive crown, although he will face stiff competition from Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney.
Martin’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates Zdenek Stybar, a stage winner in Mairena de Aljafare in week one, and Kristof Vandewalle were also among the nine riders who abandoned the Vuelta on Sunday.
“Stybar had a few problems probably because of the extreme weather conditions of yesterday,” said Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Rik Van Slycke. “As for Kristof Vandewalle, he abandoned as a small consequence of a crash a couple days ago. He had a little bit of pain on his left leg. So it was a precaution for his soreness, but also because of the Worlds, which are fast approaching.”