LEON, Spain (VN) — You’d think that one of the best young, emerging climbers in the peloton might love the 20-percent-plus grades of the Angliru, but Garmin-Cervélo climber Daniel Martin rode away unimpressed with Spain’s hardest mountain.
Martin, who took his first grand-tour stage victory at La Covatilla in stage 9, said the Angliru is so steep and so brutal that it borders on being a gimmick.
“It’s not bike racing. It’s survival,” Martin told VeloNews. “It’s getting to the top as fast as you can look around where you are. It’s stupid.
Martin went down swinging on the climb, first attacking over the Alto de Cordal with less than 25km to go. The move was designed to give him some space on the descent to get safely to the base of the Angliru, as well as have time to get two power gels and a half-bottle of water into him.
Once on the Angliru, he followed Igor Anton when the Basque climber made a surge with 6km to go. That effort lost steam when Juanjo Cobo powered past to win the stage and take the leader’s jersey.
Martin described the chaos on the mountain:
“It was crazy. It was so steep, my front wheel’s coming off the ground,” he said. “I almost got knocked off by a car stalling and rolling backwards into me. A motorbike was rolling backwards into me because he’s got his brakes locked on, but they’re not working because it’s so steep. He’s just sliding.
“It’s fantastic for the fans, it’s a real good view of suffering. It’s too much. It’s that climb you find your gear and stay at a certain speed. It’s not racing.”
Martin was hoping for a top 10 overall in this Vuelta, at least until he flopped in the 47km Salamanca time trial, when he forfeited more than six minutes and sunk to 24th at 4:58 back.
Since then, he’s been picking his way back, settling into 16th at 6:42 back after the Angliru.
With his climbing legs among the best when he’s on a good day, he knows that his time trialing ability will improve with time.
“The time trial was even surprising how bad I went. It’s a lot easier to turn a climber into a good time trialist,” he said. “I’m happy to have won a mountain stage. To be honest, there’s only been two mountain stages out of the best climbers, and I got one of those. I’ve got the climbing legs. A bit of age, a bit of experience, I will be there.”
With the stage win already in the bag, Martin said he will continue to race hard in the final week to lay the foundation for the future.
“To be honest, now it’s all about proving to myself that I can still race hard in a third week in a grand tour,” he said. “It bodes well for the future. I am still growing. It’s all about racing, day-in, day-out.”
Martin said if he has the legs he will try to win again at Peña Cabarga on stage 17 and ride strong all the way to Madrid.
“That one suits me pretty good,” he said of Peña Cabarga. “It’s a short, 5km effort. I might even look at going into a breakaway, maybe on the Bilbao stage. The options are still there. There’s still a week left and the last on GC is down four and a half hours, it shows how crazy this race has been. There’s been one sprint stage in two weeks. It’s not normal for a grand tour. The next sprint will be Madrid. There are no sprinters left!”