Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) had no response when Vuelta a España podium contenders Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), and Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) began the final sort out of this year’s race on the last ascent of stage 17.
Martin came into the stage sitting fourth overall, 1:48 off Roglič’s overall lead but with an outside chance of clawing back enough time to move into third overall. However, on the punishing slopes of the Alto de la Covatilla, Martin was put on the back foot when Carthy commenced hostilities with a searing set of attacks that only Roglič, Carapaz, and Enric Mas could follow.
Martin was forced to ride at his own pace and limit his losses on the same climb that he won his maiden Grand Tour stage on back in the 2011 Vuelta a España. The Irishman would eventually finish 18th on the stage but did enough to hold onto fourth overall and maintain a lead over Mas in the general classification.
Martin still has a huge amount to take away from this race, not least the fact that he won a stage and claimed his best ever GC result in a Grand Tour – which had been sixth overall in the 2017 Tour de France. His impressive stage win La Laguna Negra de Vinuesa was his first win in two seasons and after a difficult period in his career due to injuries, the 34-year-old has provided a timely reminder of his ability.
“I started off the day feeling good, but that was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. With the cold and rain and savage pace all day it was just one stage too far for me,” Martin said after the stage before congratulating the three riders that finished ahead of him on GC.
“I emptied the tank and minimized our losses. We envisaged an attack on the podium but in the end, the three guys in front were just better.”
“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved these past three weeks. Israel Start Up Nation signed me last year with the belief that I was capable of results like this and it’s amazing for me to pay back that belief. They gave me a team built around me and the guys did all they could for me for three weeks. It’s been one hell of a ride and to get the best Grand Tour result of my career and a stage victory, we could not have imagined such results three weeks ago.”
Martin ends his season on a high and will take that confidence into 2021, when he will return with an even stronger Israel Start-Up Nation squad. The team has invested heavily in improving their roster with Chris Froome, Michael Woods, Sep Vanmarcke, Patrick Bevin and Daryl Impey all signed for the new year. Martin’s Vuelta result will no doubt ensure that he has a major role when it comes to stage racing leadership.
“It’s a milestone for the team as we build into what is an incredibly exciting year next year where our ambitions as a team will be even greater. Thank you to all the staff and riders for making this such a special 3 weeks and it makes me hungry for more next year.”
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