Irishman Dan Martin stormed into the lead of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya with an impressive victory in the fourth stage of the race on Thursday.
The Garmin-Sharp rider surged clear with nearly 8km remaining of the grueling 217.7km ride from Comprodon to Port Aine, Spain, to finish 36 seconds clear of Joaquim Rodriguez and also move 10 seconds ahead of the Spaniard in the overall standings.
However, the big news of the day was the retirement from the race of Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
The Spanish rider had been leading after the first three stages of the tour, but he and teammate Eros Capecchi crashed just short of 120km into the stage and, although Valverde tried to continue, he eventually retired after a further 10km.
Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzui said both riders were heavily bruised, but he did not believe they had suffered any serious injuries.
Valverde’s crash also significantly altered the development of the stage as the peloton slowed to see if he would return to the race, allowing a breakaway of 23 riders to build up a significant advantage.
Martin was part of that group and whilst others struggled to maintain their pace on the climb up Port de Canto, he was strong enough to hold off breaks by compatriot Nicholas Roche and Jose Herrada to move clear at the front.
Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana of the Katusha team then made late breaks to take second and third respectively, with Quintana also just 22 seconds behind Rodriguez in the overall standings.
Last year’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins is a further four seconds off the pace after he could only finish in sixth after Team Sky’s push to try to breach the gap from the peloton to the breakaway group left him without support on the final climbs.