It was one of those days that makes you understand how magical, how fascinating, how great a cycling race can turn out to be – and when you’ve got your riders in the middle of the drama, framed against the most striking of landscapes, then you feel truly blessed.
That was the story today in the 201 km 5th stage of the Volta a Catalunya, a race that provides countless mountains, and today included the out-of-control script that everybody loves to watch.
It was a full-speed affair from the get-go, as the peloton knew that it might be the day that a breakaway would get to the finish. We had other ideas, having Daryl Impey as our guy to sprint in a selected group to survive the great Montserrat.
Dan Martin takes it from here: “We started the day 100% committed to Daryl and wanted a sprint with him, so I spent a lot of energy following attacks at the start. Then we ended up in the big front group with me, Daryl and Omer. The race was really tough, being in such a big group there was no cohesion, and it was constant attacking. Omer did a great job of joining a counterattack, which meant that Daryl and I were more relaxed.”
Indeed, the Israeli champion, Omer Goldstein, was on fire. Over the last few days, he has been a bit upset with himself, not showing consistency. But his teammates were advising him to calm. “It’s one of the hardest races on the calendar,” said Martin. And today, it was Omer’s turn to show that he belongs. He was there among the front chunk (about 40 riders) who split it open; he then chased the breakaway successfully. “It was such a hard interval,” he recalled later. When he was caught 40 km from the finish, his job was done, and Martin took control of the Montserrat climb.
Martin: “It was a really tough final 35 km. Everybody was tired and cramping but just kept attacking. It was a lot of fun, actually, and a real tactical battle that Kämna won. I got away with 3 km to go in a small group, and when we got caught, I focused on the sprint, which I was thrilled to get second from the group. It’s a perfect sign after I was sick two weeks ago and missed a lot of training, so I’m happy to be on the right track again, and this result gives us confidence for the next days and races.”
And Omer? “Well,” said the Israeli, “I was relieved to see that I am back in shape after a hard start. I felt great, and with a twist here and there, I could have even fought with the best riders to the finish. Hopefully, that day may come.”