Vuelta a Espana

Emotional Dan Martin wins Israel Start-Up Nation’s first stage at Vuelta a España

Dan Martin delivers Israel Start-Up Nation's second grand tour victory this month.

An emotional Dan Martin delivered his first victory in more than two years Thursday at the Vuelta a España.

The pleasing win for the 34-year-old Irishman also marks the second grand tour stage victory for Israel Start-Up Nation inside of a month. Alex Dowsett won a stage at the Giro d’Italia in an emotional breakaway win in stage 8 in Italy.

“I really wanted to win a stage for this team because they’ve been so good to me,” said Martin, who joined the team this year. “The sponsors have supported us all through COVID. There was no salary cuts or anything like that. The whole team was motivated through lockdown because of that to train hard.”

The payback came at the best possible time for Israel Start-Up Nation, racing its first edition in the Vuelta after jumping to the WorldTour in 2020. The team was a bit slow out of the gate in its first WorldTour season, winning Le Samyn and some other minor races before starting its first Tour de France in August.

The team’s first Tour was a mixed bag. Martin crashed there, and could only muster 41st overall, while veteran sprinter André Greipel abandoned. Guy Niv set an important milestone by becoming the first Israeli rider to finish the Tour de France, arriving in Paris in 139th overall.

A motivated team arrived in Spain headlined by Martin, along with expert road captain Rory Sutherland, and a clutch of grand tour rookies, including Canadian James Piccoli.

“It’s a special moment, we could not imagine a start like this,” said Martin, who was third in the first two stages. “We just want to enjoy day by day, keep racing like we have been, and see where it takes us. I know I can sprint for 200m. I didn’t know if I could win, and I wasn’t sure if someone was ahead of us, so that’s why I didn’t celebrate at the line. I wanted to make sure first.”

The victory is another milestone for Martin, who won a stage at the 2011 Vuelta, on La Covatilla, the final climb of this year’s Vuelta. Martin finished three times in the top 10 at the Tour de France, and won two stages there, including his last pro win before Thursday, on the Mûr de Bretagne in the 2018 Tour.

Martin will stay with the team for 2021, and be there to help Chris Froome’s arrival next season.

Martin, who raced with Garmin, Quick-Step, and UAE Team Emirates before joining Israel Start-Up Nation, teared up as he dedicated the victory to his wife and two young children.

“It’s part for them, and part for my wife as well. This is the first time I’ve won a race since my kids were born and it means a lot,” he said. “I spent a lot of time away from my wife these past few months. This is the first time I’ve won after the birth of my babies, it’s very special. I spend a lot of time away from time, but it’s moments like this that I can share with them that make it all worthwhile.”

With the victory, Martin is now only five seconds behind race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), but for right now, he just wants to savor the moment. For a rider who’s also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro di Lombardia, he knows big wins like this one don’t come around very often.