A fierce acceleration saw the 29-year-old Irish rider get the win at the top of Alto de Fredes, in stage 2 of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Almost one year and a half since his last victory, which came in stage 4 of the 2014 Tour of Beijing, Dan Martin found again the road to success, this time at the 67th edition of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, where he conquered the European season's first mountain top finish, Alto de Fredes (17 km, 4.5% average gradient, 12% maximum gradient). The two-time Monument winner took advantage of his powerful explosion and left everyone behind before soloing to the finish line, where he scored his maiden victory in the Etixx – Quick-Step jersey, a result which helped him move up in the overall standings.
The day began with a five-man break that was in the spotlight for almost 150 kilometers, before the peloton came back together on the final climb. There, Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) tried to get clear, but didn't manage to build a considerable gap and were caught by the Sky-led pack. Immediately, Jose Herrada (Movistar) attacked and stayed at the front until the final 800 meters of the first-category ascent. As soon as the Spaniard was absorbed by the chasers, Dan Martin made his move, one which proved to be too strong for the others to react, and won with a 2-second advantage over Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Wout Poels (Sky).
"As soon as I joined Etixx – Quick-Step, the welcome was incredible. Also, the atmosphere is really good for my confidence. Even from the start of today's stage I really believed I had a chance to win. I had the legs, I managed to score this victory and have that perfect start to the season. With 3 kilometers to go, there was a flat section which was really fast. Many riders used it to come at the front, and at one moment I was badly positioned. Then I moved up, Navarro attacked and when I looked up and saw we are entering the last kilometer, I decided to give it a go", said Dan Martin. "I sprinted three times, and in the last 250 meters, which were in a downhill, I already knew I had won. The victory came also as a result of the excellent job of my team, with the guys being fantastic throughout the day."
This was Etixx – Quick-Step's fifth victory of the season, and the second in as many days, following the one of Marcel Kittel in stage 1 of the Dubai Tour. The series started in the Tour de San Luis, with the team time trial and Fernando Gaviria's first pro success, and continued in Europe at the Challenge Mallorca, where Gianluca Brambilla got his hands on Trofeo Pollença-Port de Andratx after a valiant effort: "When you see your teammates winning, you begin thinking it's possible also for you to do it."
That's what is so good about Etixx – Quick-Step as a team, the atmosphere and the mentality.
"Everybody wants to land victories all the time, regardless of the race, and to get them gives you a lot of confidence", concluded a thrilled Dan Martin after the stage, before climbing on the podium, were he received the trophy for the stage win, as well as the polka dot jersey, for leading the KOM classification.
The stage to Alto de Fredes was a rewarding one also for another Etixx – Quick-Step rider, Bob Jungels: the Luxembourg champion, who was in the top 10 in yesterday's individual time trial, finished only two seconds behind his teammate and climbed to 5th in the overall standings, with three stages to go.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele