LEON, Spain (VN) — Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) took an emotional double in Thursday’s summit finish at the Volta a Catalunya, winning the stage and taking the overall lead, but his cagey racing in Friday’s short sprinters’ stage might have much more importance in the final GC battle.
On a day when no one expected major changes, Martin picked up a one-second bonus at an intermediate sprint and then crossed the line ninth in a chaotic bunch sprint won by Canadian Francois Parisien (Argos-Shimano). Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r La Mondiale) was second in the sprint, with Stéphane Poulhies (Cofidis) third.
The peloton split on the final charge to the line in Lleida and Martin was where he needed to be. The other GC contenders were not, and it cost them.
Second-place Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) lost three more seconds, dropping from 10 seconds back to 14 seconds. Third-place man Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also lost 10 seconds to drop to 42 seconds back.
With finish-line bonuses in play in the closing two stages, including the hilltop finale up Montjuic in Barcelona that favors Rodríguez, Martin’s attentive racing Friday could prove decisive.
“We were not thinking of making differences, but in the intermediate sprint, there still wasn’t a breakaway and Koldo Fernández positioned me perfect and I took a second,” Martin said. “The same thing happened at the finish line and he saved me from being cut.”
Without the time gains on Friday, Rodríguez could have taken the leader’s jersey if he’d taken the full time bonus at Montjuic and Martin had not earned any time bonus in the stage.
With two stages left to go in the seven-day Catalunya tour, Martin is edging closer to the biggest win of his career. He’s won a stage at the 2011 Vuelta a España and the overall at the Tour of Poland, but Catalunya is Spain’s oldest stage race and is packed with valuable UCI points.
The 26-year-old said he realizes that the four seconds he took back on Rodríguez will be a huge benefit on the finale up the Montjuic hilltop climb, with time bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds waiting at the line.
“It’s always good to take time on ‘Purito’ and (Bradley) Wiggins. There are still two hard stages. [Saturday] could be complicated because there could be a big break going away and it will be up to us to control the stage,” Martin said. “I am also explosive. It will be difficult, but I am confident I can defend my lead.”
Martin has had some close calls with the Catalunya tour before, finishing second as a rookie in 2009, third in 2011, and fourth last year. So far, Martin, who is based in nearby Girona, has charmed local journalists by speaking a smattering of Catalan during the press conferences.
Parisien goes from Canada to Europe via Facebook
The day’s other big story was the sprint victory by Canadian journeyman Parisien, who brought home the flowers in his first WorldTour victory with Argos-Shimano.
Parisien, who was looking at unemployment after the SpiderTech team folded for this season, was ecstatic with the victory and embraced his new teammates at the finish line.
“I still can’t believe that I won today. This is the biggest win of my career,” Parisien said. “What made it even better was the amazing teamwork. Today we executed our plan perfectly. Yesterday we studied the final 3km for a long time. It was important that we be at the front with 3km to go, and Patrick Gretsch brought us to the front right on schedule. After that it was up to Georg Preidler and Albert Timmer to keep the speed high. The guys went 65 kph.”
Long a steady presence on the North American circuit, with an overall win at the Tour of Elk Grove last year, Parisien landed with Argos through serendipity.
“I was injured last year and kind of depressed. SpiderTech folded on October 15 and I wasn’t sure about finding a team,” he explained. “But the next day, Argos got in touch with me via Facebook, because they couldn’t find my telephone number. Within 24 hours, they signed me, and had my points, because the 20th was the last day they could be counted.”
Though not a pure sprinter, Parisien has already posted some solid results in his first few races in Europe.
He was 15th overall at Etoile de Bessèges, 27th at Strade Bianche, 17th at Roma Maxima, and 18th in the opening stage of Catalunya, to Calellaresults — results that gave him confidence coming into the meat of the challenging Catalunya finale.
“Since I started riding with Team Argos-Shimano I’ve changed my training a lot. The team helped me improve. I worked hard and knew it was just a matter of time,” he said. “I already felt good this whole week, and now everything fell into place today. Before we started this race, I thought my biggest chance for a stage win would be the last two stages, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday.”
The 93rd Volta a Catalunya continues Saturday with the 178-kilometer sixth stage from Almacelles to Valls.