Daniel Martinez wasn’t meant to race Volta a Catalunya. The Colombian was a late race call-up to replace his compatriot Rigoberto Uran, who was unable to start due to illness. Although Martinez was coming off a heavy training week, he managed to produce EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale’s best general classification result of the week. The 21-year-old wrapped up the week his first WorldTour race of the year in seventh place overall.
“You know, when Rigo was out of the race in last minute, I raised my hand and proposed Dani,” said sport director Juan Manual Garate. “It wasn’t in his program, and Dani was training hard these last weeks. Even with that fatigue in the body, he came to the race and did a really nice result. I saw him racing in Colombia, and I saw already that this guy has the numbers and the attitude to be competitive at the maximum level. He’s still young and we need to takes everything with him step-by-step.”
Hugh Carthy was poised to be top #PinkArgyle overall heading into the final stage, but a mechanical in the final five kilometers of the final stage derailed his efforts and his ambitions. The Briton lost five spots as a result of his misfortune, closing out the seven-day Catalan stage race in 13th overall.
Volta Catalunya Stage 5
Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) survived the early breakaway and proved quickest in a two-up sprint to win Volta Catalunya stage five. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished at the front of the main bunch to keep the race leader’s jersey for another day.
Carthy and Martinez came across the line with the Valverde group and both saw general classification gains. Carthy moved up one place, from ninth to eighth, as Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) tumbled out the top ten. Martinez jumped up four places – to ninth place – by virtue of bonus seconds gained at the first intermediate sprint.
“We prepared for the intermediate sprint,” Garate explained. “It was at kilometer four of the race. We did a presentation on the bus that focused on this sprint. Mike [Woods] and Alex [Howes] did the lead-out for Martinez. [Sport director] Tom [Southam] was in front of the race, giving me notes, telling me exactly how it was. We prepared. And we did it. It was a really nice effort by the team to get Martinez into the top 10 on GC.”
Volta Catalunya Stage 6
Doozy of a stage at Volta Catalunya. Race organizers cut 76km from the stage six route due to snow and freezing temps. Despite the shortened stage, a two-rider breakaway managed to stay away, and Max Schachman (QuickStep-Floors) took the win. Carthy and Martinez finished with the first peloton of 40 riders that formed in the crosswinds and retained their places on general classification — eighth for Carthy and ninth for Martinez.
“Everyone was a little apprehensive about the bad weather on the short stage,” said Carthy. “Anything can happen in 2.5 hours. All the teams would have been aware of the crosswind sections, but in the cold weather, not everybody can react the same. We moved up ahead of time, and when the wind came, we were ready. After the front group formed, we turned into a tailwind until the finish. The only danger from there was the slippery roundabouts in the last 20 kilometer.”
Volta Catalunya Stage 7
Volta Catalunya came to a close in Barcelona on Sunday with its traditional finish on the hilly Montjuic circuit. Pierre Rolland represented #PinkArgyle in the early breakaway before riders racing for general classification came to fore. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) parlayed a late attack into a solo stage victory. Marc Soler (Movistar) came across the line alone in second, and Dani Martinez sprinted in with the group contesting third place on the stage.
A late race crash impacted the general classification with Egan Bernal (SKY), who started the stage in second overall, exiting the race after falling on the final lap. Shortly after Bernal’s fall, Hugh Carthy suffered him a mechanical that took him out of the first chase group. Bernal and Carthy’s misfortunate coupled with Martinez’s consistency afforded him a two-spot jump on the general classification. He closed out the week as top #PinkArgyle in seventh overall. Carthy dropped down five place, slotting into 13th overall.
“Hugh had to change bikes with a neutral car because we were behind the barrage and couldn’t arrive to him in time,” said Garate. “That’s why he dropped from eighth the 13th. He was really, really sad – Tom and me, too. We know how much he sacrificed for this, and in he end, for what? – a mechanical problem in the worst moment of the stage, even of the week. He lost everything.”
For Martinez, it was a happier day: “Today was a hard circuit, and this was a very tough race. To come in to replace a rider like Rigoberto Uran is very difficult. I just wanted to give my very best, and I’m happy I could represent the team well.”