Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) won stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya on Thursday with a long, solo attack on the hors categorie climb to the finish in Port-Ainé, Spain.
Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) was second, ahead of stage 3 winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Martin assumed the overall lead, 10 seconds ahead of Rodríguez and 32 seconds ahead of Quintana.
“It’s one of my best victories,” said Martin. “To have Ryder [Hesjedal] working for me in the breakaway like that all day was just incredible. I didn’t do much in the breakaway. I felt kind of bad, but it’s an incredible victory for me today. I know how difficult it is to win out a breakaway. To finally get a victory here in the mountains of my home race is very important for me.”
Overall leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) abandoned the race earlier in the day after crashing.
Martin and teammate Ryder Hesjedal made their way into the breakaway on the 217-kilometer stage. By the time Martin rolled onto the lower reaches of the 18km finish climb, the group was falling apart. With 8km to go, Martin had decimated the breakaway and was alone with Jose Herrada (Movistar).
Behind them, Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) chased, but could not close on the Irishman. When Herrada faltered, Martin continued alone, his shoulder rocking over his handlebars.
Sky, riding for 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, and Katusha, riding for 2012 Giro d’Italia runner-up Rodríguez, led the chase in the GC group, at just over a minute. As they approached Gesink and Van Den Broeck, Quintana jumped, riding through the pair.
Rodríguez followed, but the chasers left it too late for Martin, who rode into the final kilometer with more than 30 seconds’ advantage. In the end, the 36-second margin was enough the land the Irishman in the leader’s jersey ahead of Rodríguez, who nipped Quintana at the line.
The Volta a Catalunya continues Friday with the 156km fifth stage from Rialp to Lleida.
“I will try to defend the jersey all the way to the end. The climb at Montjuic [final stage] is perfect for Joaquim,” said Martin. “I know he will be going for it in his hometown. I was thinking more about the stage win today, so to get the leader’s jersey is just incredible. I know I was going pretty slow in those last two kilometers. I really didn’t start thinking that I was going to win until 100 meters to go.”