Monday 18 December 2017

Tour of Catalonia: Martin takes overall lead after superb stage success

Gerard Cromwell

Ireland's Dan Martin soloed to victory on the mountainous fourth stage of the Tour of Catalonia to take over as race leader.

On a day containing 60km of climbing over five categorised ascents and finishing on top of the snow-capped Port Aine, Martin first went clear in a 23-man lead group on the descent of the third category Coll de Merolla after 40km.

Martin's Garmin Sharp team-mate Ryder Hesjedal and his cousin Nicolas Roche were also in this breakaway group. They opened a gap of just over four minutes mid-stage, but were brought back to within a couple of minutes of the Sky-led peloton as they approached the final 19km ascent to the finish.

At the bottom, Martin led a group of five riders across to Roche, who had spent the previous 30km out front on his own, having attacked a kilometre from the summit of the penultimate climb, the 25km long Port del Canto.

Roche slotted into the wheels, but soon felt the pinch of some relentless driving by Martin who single-handedly dropped all of his breakaway partners with 7km remaining on the 210km stage.

Fighting hard to fend off the chase behind on the snow-capped climb, Martin crossed the line 36 seconds clear of nearest rival Joaquin Rodriguez to win the stage.

Having also earned three seconds in a time bonus earlier in the stage, Martin's cushion was enough to give him the race lead by 10 seconds from last year's World Tour winner.

"I was thinking more about the stage win today, so to get the leader's jersey is just incredible," said Martin afterwards. "I know I was going pretty slow in those last two kilometres.

"I really didn't start thinking that I was going to win until 100m to go."

Based in nearby Girona for the past four years, the Tour of Catalonia has become Martin's adopted home race and he has finished second overall twice and was fourth last year.

The race finishes with a tough circuit based on the Montjuic climb near Barcelona.

Irvine season over after breaking hip

Ireland's newest world champion, Martyn Irvine, saw his season come to a dramatic halt when he broke a hip in a high-speed crash during the Tour of Taiwan.

Irvine, who became the first Irish track cycling champion in 117 years when he won the world scratch race title in Minsk last month, was riding in a lineout when the rider in front swerved to avoid a roadside bollard without warning.

Irvine had no time to react and hit the bollard at full speed. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he underwent an operation. He is expected to be out of action for two to three months.

Irish Independent

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