MADRID (AFP) — Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) claimed victory in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on Sunday as Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) won the final stage, a 122km leg from El Vendrell into the Catalan capital.
The Vacansoleil rider pipped David Lopez Garcia (Sky) and Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) on the line.
“I came here thinking the overall, but I didn’t have the legs in the second mountain stage. Now the good sensations have come back,” De Gendt said.
“The win is important because it’s the first of the year for the team, but I am not leaving Catalunya satisfied. I hope to be better at Basque Country, California and the Dauphiné, all goals before the Tour.”
However, it was Martin who took the overall victory as he shadowed second-placed Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) to the line to ensure his 17-second lead wasn’t eroded. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) finished third overall.
Martin took a decisive hold on the race on Thursday when he won the grueling 217km trek to Port Aine after Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who had led after the third stage, was forced to retire after a crash.
The 26-year-old Irishman won the stage in style, finishing 36 seconds ahead of Rodriguez to open a 10-second gap in the overall standings that he had extended to 17 seconds after Saturday’s sixth stage.
“This victory is thanks to Ryder [Hesjedal] and the work he did on Port Ainé,” Martin said. “The whole team did a great race during each stage. Once we had the jersey, we had to control the race. To win was not easy. Purito attacked hard several times. We had to defend against a ton of attacks.”
Last year’s Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), also suffered on Thursday’s fourth stage — he lost more than a minute on Martin and eventually finished 54 seconds back in fifth.
Martin’s lead never looked in danger on the final day as the contenders remained in the peloton for the majority of the stage.
A leading group of 10 riders made a break early on and had built up a three-and-a-half minute advantage by the 50km mark.
However, their lead was slowly whittled down by the peloton and they were eventually caught as the race entered the first of seven laps around Montujic.
De Gendt, Lopez and Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) then hit the front and were joined by Scarponi and Kiserlovski 5km later.
Lopez seemed to have made a decisive break with 5km to go but decided to reserve his energy for the sprint finish than trying to maintain his lead until the end and was just edged out by De Gendt.
Scarponi’s late push to finish fourth was enough though to move him into third in the overall standings ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Martin earns the win after being on the podium in 2009 and 2011 in what he called the biggest stage race victory of his budding career.
“I am very happy to win. To win at home in Catalunya is very special,” said Martin, who is based in Girona. “Now I hope to do well in the Ardennes and take advantage of the good form I have.”