A last-second lunge for the line at the summit finish in La Covatilla earned up-and-coming Irish climber Dan Martin his first Grand Tour stage win on Sunday, while Dutchman Bauke Mollema took the overall leader’s red jersey.
After powerful mountain riding by Britain’s Bradley Wiggins and his Sky team saw top favorites Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and overnight leader Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain lose time on the ninth stage of the Vuelta a Espana, Martin zipped past Wiggins within sight of the line to claim the victory.
Second, in the same time, was new race leader Mollema with Spain’s Juan Jose Cobo in third, three seconds back. Wiggins, by far the strongest overall contender on the climb, finished fourth, a second behind Cobo.
As a half-gale buffeted the riders on the exposed summit of the 18km climb, last year’s winner of la Vuelta Nibali lost 11 seconds and Rodriguez just under a minute.
Martin, nephew of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, said: “Some of the most important climbers in the world are here and to beat them is very exciting. It was a very fast climb at the start, but I tried to stay relaxed and in control.”
“When Bradley [Wiggins] came up to us, he was going really strongly, but I could keep with him. I was feeling quite confident with 300m to go, then came round him the rest for the win,” he said.
The leader by a second over Rodriguez, Mollema said he had no idea he would move to the top of the general classification and had been en route to a routine anti-doping control when he heard he had to go to the winner’s podium.
The Rabobank rider told reporters: “I was very surprised to see Rodriguez losing time like that after his team had worked so hard on the approach to the climb.”
“For tomorrow [Monday] in the time trial, Wiggins will be the big favorite,” Mollema said. “There are quite a few hard days coming up and as a climber, maybe I’ll be able to stay in the top positions.”