Martin takes heart from brave podium finish in Fleche-Wallone
Ireland's Dan Martin came within 100 metres of claiming his second WorldTour classic at Fleche-Wallone in Belgium.
Martin, who won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year, bided his time as a three-man escape group containing his Garmin Sharp team-mate Ramunas Navardauskas went clear early on and stayed out front until 12km to go.
Despite being hampered by a crash before the base of the finishing climb up the ultra-steep Mur de Huy, Martin fought his way through the field and seemed to have timed his move to perfection when he hit the front 150 metres from the line.
A counter-attack by former world No 1 Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, however, saw the Spaniard sail past Martin in the closing metres to take his second win in the classic.
"They say you have to learn how to ride this race," said Martin, who finished sixth in 2012 and fourth last year. "Every year I get a little bit better. This year it was just flat out the whole way up. Alejandro was the strongest today. With 100 metres to go, I thought I had it, but he just blew past me."
Martin will now head into the Liege-Bastogne-Liege with renewed confidence."This is my first result of the year and it's my first objective of the year, so it's nice to come away with a podium spot in the first race I've been aiming for, ahead of Sunday and, of course, the Giro. That's my big goal for the first part of the year, the whole season really. So it's nice to have that confidence boost and know that what I've been doing in training has been going well.
"Liege is more a war of attrition and you don't see the same sort of explosiveness in the final. This race is very much a waiting game but Liege is more tactical and team tactics play more of a part."
Philip Deignan, meanwhile, continued his return to action for Team Sky with 32nd place on stage two of the Giro del Trentino in Italy.
Deignan, who is on Sky's preliminary start list for the Giro d'Italia in Belfast next month, was to the fore on the many climbs throughout the stage, helping team-mate Kanstantin Sioutsou to 11th place on the stage, which was won by Italian Edoardo Zardini.
Cadel Evans (BMC), the 2011 Tour de France winner, took fourth on the stage and now leads the race overall by nine seconds from Zardini. Deignan is 25th overall.