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Edged out inside the last 50 metres of stage three of the Vuelta a España by Michael Matthews, Garmin-Sharp rider Dan Martin has spoken of his near-miss, plus his intent to try again for another stage win as soon as possible.
The Irish rider looked to be one of the strongest on the final climb to the finish in Arcos de la Frontera, but Matthews latched onto his back wheel as he made his move, then jumped around him within sight of the line.
“Obviously getting second again is frustrating,” said Martin, who was second on the final stage of the recent Tour de l’Ain and also runner-up in Flèche Wallonne earlier this season. “I have been second a fair few times in the last year now, so it’s hard.”
Martin had a testing season with a crash in the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège foiling his chances of a second win. He also crashed out on the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, fracturing his collarbone and missing several weeks of racing.
He didn’t start the Tour de France, returning to competition in the Irish road race championships at the end of June and following an alternative programme. He lined out in the Tour of Austria, where he was fifth and eight on stages.
The Tour de l’Ain showed that his form was on the up at the right time and in taking second and third on stages and third overall, Martin concluded that he was hitting the start of the Vuelta in exactly the right condition. Speaking to CyclingTips last week, he said he was probably in his best ever form prior to a Grand Tour.
He thanked his Garmin-Sharp team-mates at the end of stage three, saying that they helped him staying hydrated in tough conditions.
“I felt good all day and the guys did an incredible job. I reckon I must have had 15 to 20 bottles, drinking ten, twelve litres of water during the day,” he said. “It was really hot out there, 40 degrees, and you could see the effects of that in the final. It wasn’t that hard of a finish but the group was decimated.
“I was still feeling really, really good, really fresh, and even at the finish line I felt good. It is just that Bling is faster than me. I maybe needed a bit steeper climb to get rid of him, but that is the way it is. Obviously the legs are good and we will move on. I’m definitely not happy with second place, though.”
Martin was sitting in approximately 20th place going under the kite. Matthew’s Orica GreenEdge team were much more prominent, but the Irishman dismissed suggestions that this could have cost him the energy he needed to take the win.
“It wasn’t an issue because the group stalled at that point,” he said. “I wanted to use that momentum to come from behind and try and get a gap. Unfortunately Chris Froome attacked at the same time when I was coming past. I went on his wheel and maybe if I hadn’t gone on his wheel I could have got a gap. Then they would have had to close it.
“Perhaps that was an error, perhaps I should have gone straight past Chris, but at the same time I still ran out of legs at the line. If I had hit the wind earlier, I could perhaps have been caught earlier and might not have got second. Who knows? Anyway, we try our best and we move on.”
Martin has a talent for seeing the best in situations and said that he now has firm proof that he is in the right shape. “The result showed that I have come into the race in a good condition. I knew that already but to ride in that type of finish against some of the best guys in the world really shows that I am in the right position at the moment,” he said.
He is taking nothing for granted at this point, though. “Obviously the longer climbs might be different story but we will see when we get to them. Stage six is the next hilltop finish, and it is one which also suits me well. It is four and a half kilometres; normally a steep climb of about four kilometres is good for me. So let’s see how that goes.”