Switched-on Martin extends lead over chasing pack

Ireland’s Dan Martin retained the race lead on yesterday’s fifth stage of the Volta A Catalunya, finishing ninth on the run from Rialp to Lleida and extending his lead over his closest challenger to 14 seconds.

The Garmin-SHARP rider looked to be suffering no ill-effects from his epic solo stage win on Thursday and was active throughout the mainly flat 156km trek yesterday.

Martin was alert from the off and picked up a crucial bonus second midway through the stage after notching third place on an intermediate sprint. He followed that up by picking up three more valuable seconds when several big-name contenders were distanced on the swift run-in to the finish.

The Irishman was ninth on the stage, coming across the line in the same time as stage winner Francois Parisien (Team Argos-Shimano), with Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2R La Mondiale) and Stéphane Poulhies (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) rounding out the podium.

Second placed Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) — viewed as Martin’s biggest threat to the overall title — lost three seconds in that hectic finale, third place overall Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost nine seconds while just behind him, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) lost a similar amount of time.

Today’s penultimate stage takes the riders 178km from Almacelles to Valls and is likely to see no major shake-up in the general classification — though the same cannot be said for tomorrow’s final stage into Barcelona.

There, Martin can expect a huge challenge from his rivals as the testing final leg includes eight laps on a circuit including the steep ramp up to Alt de Montjuïc and with time bonuses on offer throughout the stage, the race is anything but over.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Roche will look to end a disappointing race by going on the attack today and tomorrow. The SaxoBank-Tinkoff rider is 56th on GC, over 18 minutes down on his cousin Martin.


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