The Vuelta a España is the last gasp of the coronavirus-hit 2020 WorldTour season and riders are turning themselves inside out for whatever results they can grab, none more so than Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), who put in such an effort to stay in contact with a blistering attack from Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) that he collapsed onto the ground after the finish on the Alto de Moncalvillo.
It seemed like the stage 8 win would go to the breakaway when the lead group of seven had almost five minutes at the mid-point of the 164km stage, but the Movistar team came to the front and hit the throttle on the descent of the Puerto de la Rasa and nailed the escapees back at the foot of the final climb.
Martin came into the stage in third, 20 seconds behind race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and two seconds adrift of Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling). But Carthy went all-in with an attack on the steepest part of the climb with 4km to go and Martin responded. When Carthy was caught by Carapaz and Roglič the EF rider paid for his efforts and lost 33 seconds to the stage winner, Roglič.
With Roglič's rebound and Carthy's cracking, the two swapped spots in the overall standings, with Roglič moving up to second at 13 seconds from Carapaz, with Carthy dropping back to fourth at 44 seconds. Martin, ever consistent, remained second overall at 28 seconds.
"Another really challenging stage. When the break went I didn’t expect to be fighting for the stage victory but obviously, Ineos and Movistar have different ideas and the pace was on all day," Martin said.
"I felt good on the last climb and decided to test the other guys. I paid for that effort a little in the end and when Primož attacked in the last kilometre I had no response. At that point, it was about getting to the finish line as fast as possible. I gave it everything I had and we are proud of the performance again."
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider fought hard to the top of the climb, losing time to Roglič and Carapaz but gaining 14 seconds on Carthy and taking four bonus seconds for third place on the stage.
The race heads to flatter ground on Wednesday before a shorter uphill finish in Suances on Friday and two major mountain finales over the weekend at Alto de la Farrapona and the fearsome Alto de l'Angliru before the second rest day.
"Another difficult stage behind us. Different challenges ahead the next two days to just stay out of trouble and try to recover a bit before the incredibly difficult weekend."
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