Israel Start-Up Nation leader Dan Martin has hardly put a foot wrong at the Vuelta a España. After starting with third place on the opening stage in Arrate and winning on stage 3 at La Leguna Negra, the Irishman slipped from his long-held third place spot in the overall standings to fourth on stage 12 up the imposing Alto de l'Angliru.
Martin was one of seven riders left in an elite lead group along with race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) when the attacks flew in the painfully steep closing kilometres. Movistar's Enric Mas was the first to attack, drawing out Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Carthy and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), while Martin tried to follow but said afterwards that he didn't have the strength to follow.
"It was a super hard day again," Martin said of the 109km stage packed with five classified climbs. "Every climb was ridden really quickly but I felt good. Angliru is more of a time trial than a race. You just push the pedals as hard as you can and in the top you see the result.
"I felt good until the steeper sections near the top but just didn't have the strength to push the pedals any harder. When Enric Mas attacked I knew the hardest sections were coming up so it was important to not go into the red and just ride my speed."
The result for Martin was seventh on the stage, tacked onto the back of Roglic and his teammate Sepp Kuss.
Carthy took the stage win 26 seconds up the road and, with a time bonus, converted a 33 second deficit to Martin into a three-second lead and moved into third place overall. Carapaz took the lead back from Roglic with a 10-second advantage, while Carthy overtook Martin to move into third at 32 seconds.
The Irishman remained upbeat despite dropping back to fourth at 35 seconds. Mas is the only other riders within two minutes of the race lead at 1:50 and the next-best, Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren) is a distant 5:13. With all things relative, Martin is still in with a chance in this Vuelta.
"It's another strong performance though and it's just important to still be there fighting. You can see the best guys are all very close so every second counts. I did my best so we have to be happy today," he said.
"If you told us at the start that on the second rest day we would be 35 seconds from the lead we would have taken it for sure. Now hope to have a relaxing day tomorrow and recovery to do a good time trial on Tuesday."
Stage 13 is a mostly flat 33.7km individual time trial with a steep 1.8km climb as a sting in the tail, with the next major challenge following on the penultimate stage to Alto de la Covatilla before the sprinter's parade into Madrid.
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