Daniel Martin’s (Garmin-Cervelo) victory atop the Sierra de Béjar on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España was a watershed moment for the 25-year-old. The stage win, ahead of Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), confirmed the Irishman can compete at the highest level, after fairly anonymous performances in his two previous Grand Tours; the 2010 Giro d’Italia, and the 2009 Vuelta.
For Martin, the win was vindication for his efforts so far in this year’s Vuelta. Third place on the most difficult climb of the race so far, Sierra Nevada proved the Irishman was in good form, but victory still came as a surprise.
"There are some of the best climbers in the world here, so to win this stage means a lot for me," Martin said. "I know I am good in small groups like this. It’s exciting for the future, but I prefer to think about the present. For now, I just want to enjoy this victory right now."
Team Director Bingen Fernández also praised Martin, who he said showed strength and tactical nous to take the career defining victory.
"[Today] brings a lot of satisfaction [to Daniel and everyone at the team]," said Fernandes. "It confirms that he can win against a world-class field in a Grand Tour. The wind made it difficult, but Martin rode the perfect tactics. When they caught him the first time, he chose to stay protected inside the bunch and then attacked [again in the final uphill] to win."
It’s been another impressive year for Martin, who is quickly developing into one of the best young climbers in the peloton. Though now sitting in 11th overall at 55 seconds, Martin tempered any suggestions of a high place in Madrid.
"I am taking this Vuelta day-by-day," said Martin "Of course, I am very content with this victory. [But] tomorrow’s stage will be the first time I have done a time trial so long and so flat, so we will see how I can do. After that there are some more high mountains in this Vuelta, so hopefully I can keep moving up. As I said though, I’ll be taking it day-by-day."