3/25/2013 - TEAM NEWS!

De Gendt wins atop Montjuïc in Catalunya

Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013

Martin seals overall victory for Garmin

After a fourth and two second places overall, there was almost a look of relief on the face Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) on Sunday when he stepped up to claim the winner’s jersey in one of the hardest fought recent editions of the Volta a Catalunya on Sunday.

Quite apart from coming so close so often in the past, a glance at the big-name riders who took second and third and whom Martin - who took the lead with a spectacular long-distance break on stage four to Port Aine in the Pyrenees - had managed to beat made it easy to understand why he was so delighted with his biggest stage race win since the Tour of Poland in 2010.

Local favourite, 2012 World Number one and 2010 Volta winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finished in the runners-up spot just 17 seconds behind. And another stage racing giant, 2011 Giro winner Michele Scarponi (Lampre) ousted Nairo Quintana (Movistar) from third place after he put in a late attack on Sunday’s fast and frantic last stage on a hilly circuit in Barcelona’s Montjuic park, won by Thomas De Gendt (Vancansoleil). In fifth place overall, too, was 2012 Tour winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky), still building towards his Giro d’Italia bid this May, but whose dominating ride on stage one and hard work by his Sky team-mates in the Pyrenees showed he, too, meant business.

After a run-in along the coast to Barcelona, the Volta concluded with eight circuits of the Montjuic park, including a short, sharp two kilometre climb and ultra-fast descent to the finish where Rodriguez had broken away with Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in the Vuelta last year.

The fast, frantic stage was marked by a ten rider breakaway that moved off the front on the run-in to Barcelona despite an average first-hour speed of 49.7 kmh. But Katusha, knowing that the gaps between Rodriguez and Martin were minimal, kept up a fast pace behind and on each ascent of the Montjuic, more and more riders were shelled from the break..

With 22 kilometres to go, De Gendt and David Lopez (Sky ProCycling) bridged across with Lotto-Belisol’s TIm Wellens, leaving the remnants of the morning break behind. But it was only when Scarponi bounded away from the Katusha, Blanco and Garmin led pack, bringing RadioShack’s Robert Kiserovski in his wake, that the break, now up to five riders, really began to function well.

Less than a minute behind Martin overall and with nothing to lose so late in the race, Scarponi’s long, steady drives had a huge impact, and with two laps left, the margin of the five stage leaders rose to a perilous 35 seconds. With time bonuses on offer, too, would the leader’s jersey change hands at the last minute?

Once Movistar began to add their troops to the Garmin-led chase, even if Martin’s overall lead was no longer under threat, it was still touch and go whether Quintana would cling on to third. Then on the final lap, López attempted to claim his first win since a stage of the Vuelta 2010, weakening the break with a solo move that only expired with less than a kilometre to go.

De Gendt blasted past the other four breakaways to take his first win of 2013 in masterly fashion, with the main peloton, headed by Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) - himself a former winner at Montjuic in the Volta a few years back - coming across the line 21 seconds back. Finally only Quintana suffered the consequences of Scarponi’s late ambush, whilst for Martin winning on what is virtually home soil - he lives in Girona just an hour’s drive further northeast,the town where Garmin have their European headsquarters too - this was a hard-earned triumph to savour for some time to come.

Photo credit © Pasados de Volta

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