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Speaking after the end of stage seven of the Vuelta a España, Dan Martin didn’t realise he was still sitting fourth in the points classification. Once told he was, he sounded pleasantly surprised.
Martin jumped clear inside the final kilometre of the stage and had a gap on the peloton behind by the line. He was pipped by Philippe Gilbert for fifth, but finished a second ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) and three up on the other general classification riders.
The points gained saw him end the day with 42 points, 30 less than double stage winner John Degenkolb (Giant Shimano) but just nine behind runner-up Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and seven off the total of Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
He is four ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) and ten up on both Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Valverde was the winner of the points classification in the past two years, while another climber Bauke Mollema took it in 2011.
“Why not?” he said, when asked if he would consider making the green jersey a target. “It would be a bit funny for me to win the points jersey, but even if I just got to wear it once it would be fantastic.”
Martin is a good climber but also a quick finisher out of a small group. He has taken second, fifth and sixth on stages of the race thus far and knows that the terrain ahead could play to his strengths.
“Obviously with the eight mountain top finishes in the race it is going to go to a climber. I just have to be consistently in the hunt for the stage wins,” he said. “On yesterday’s form [Thursday, when he finished 18th], I won’t be there in the mountains, but I think that is going to be different when the temperature have cooled down.
“I think it was just an off day; I was feeling very good until two kilometres to go, but then suddenly the lights went out. I think the heat really affected me.”
Asked if he would consider making the points jersey a deliberate target, he said that it is something that would come if the rest of the race goes well. “It just a case of doing the best you can. By riding the general classification, I will be doing the best I can on every mountain top and the points will accumulate.
“Obviously I am getting points at the moment while the climbers aren’t, so that is definitely a helping hand. It is just a case of getting results while I can.”
He said that his surge at the end of Friday’s seventh stage wasn’t done with the points jersey in mind. “It was purely a case of trying something. The bunch might just have let me go at the finish and I might have got ten seconds. There was no reason not to try – there was a very small energy loss and I think that everybody finished the stage really tired.
“It was a case of just doing a little sprint at the end, it doesn’t do you any harm.”
Martin said that he is cautious about Saturday’s eight stage, believing that the wide roads and likely crosswinds could make it a day where echelons open and riders lose time. He is aiming to get through it without problems, then to ride as well as possible on Sunday’s summit finish at Aramón Valdelinares.
“We will give it our best shot. I know that if I get to one kilometre to go, there are not many guys who are going to be faster than me. I just have to get that far, and then we will see.”