Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Team's Tony Martin picked the right moment to go for the solo victory at 156km Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco's stage 2 on Tuesday. Martin's triumph gave his team its 20th win of the 2014 season, and it was also his first non-time trial win since 2012.
"The last time I won a race that wasn't a TT was at Tour of Beijing in 2012 when I attacked on the descent. Normally when I win on the road the races are at smaller stage races," said Martin. "But I have to say a win like today is also special. I think I was strong in my head also and in the final of the stage I thought of the stage of La Vuelta last year. I said to myself 'this time, it won't happen again.'"
Martin was part of an original seven-man break during stage 2. With about 17km to go, Martin, his teammate Jan Bakelants and Movistar's Gorka Izaguirre - also both in the same break - went on the attack together.
Bakelants and Martin then worked together to wear down Izaguirre. First, Bakelandts accelerated with a little more than 12km remaining. Just as Izaguirre pulled back Bakelants, Martin countered and immediately gained a decisive gap.
Izaguirre was unable to chase Martin, and the case was the same for the peloton behind. Despite some attacks from GC contenders such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and even an attempt to bridge by Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), Martin used the time trial prowess of a three-time time trial world champion and powered away to a solo victory. Michal Kwiatkowski also contested the podium out of the chase group behind. He placed third behind Ben Swift (Team Sky).
"I came here to try and do something good in the GC," Martin said. "But yesterday the final was too hard for a rider like me. So after yesterday I decided to focus on the breakaways and of course the TT. This morning I was really motivated. Everybody wanted to try and go. Jan and I went, and for OPQS it was the perfect situation. We collaborated really well with the other guys in the breakaway. The final was hard. It wasn't long climbs, but a lot of up and down like a small Amstel Gold Race."
"When I went, to me it was kind of like a time trial until the end. I knew in the last 10 kilometers it was possible to win with a one-minute gap. I want to also thank Jan, because he let me go and he gave up his chance in my favor. This is the team spirit of OPQS and the victory is also for him and the whole team."
Martin said he is satisfied with his race and has good morale. "I also have good condition, and I will try to take advantage of this in the time trial. I checked the profile and there are two climbs, which is not so easy for me. But, with the morale and this condition, I will go 100 percent for this race."
Sport Director Davide Bramati said, "This morning we decided to let four riders free to do the race: Pieter Serry, Jan Bakelants, Tony Martin, and Carlos Verona... Tony had really great legs today and he deserved this victory. Especially after last year at La Vuelta a Espana, where he was caught in the final meters after a great solo attack."