Vuelta a España - Martin wins, Mollema takes red
Sun, 28 Aug 15:56:00 2011
Ireland's Dan Martin won stage nine of the Vuelta a España at the ski resort of La Covatilla as Dutchman Bauke Mollema moved into a surprise race lead.
Garmin-Cervelo's Martin sprinted clear of Dutchman Mollema of Rabobank in the closing straight after an eventful conclusion to the 183km stage that saw red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) dropped on the final climb and Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Sky) excel.
Mollema now leads Spaniard Rodriguez by one second in the GC, with defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) in third, nine seconds down.
Martin, second in the Tour of Poland earlier this month, made his initial attack on the gruelling final climb 5km from the summit. A counter by Italian Nibali then saw fellow race favourites Rodriguez and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) both distanced from the chasing group.
Determined riding from Wiggins and his Sky lieutenant Chris Froome reeled both Nibali and Martin back into a select leading group, which also included Spain's Juan Jose Cobo (Geox) and the young Mollema.
Wiggins, who was forced to retired from last month's Tour de France with a broken collarbone, rode as if he was performing a solo mountain time trial - and the Briton looked very much in control of matters as the group entered the final kilometre.
But 25-year-old Martin launched an attack on the right-hand side of the road in the closing 200m just as the road flattened out, and held on to take the first Grand Tour win of his career - and the king of the mountains jersey.
Mollema finished in the same time in second place, with Cobo taking third, three seconds down, and Wiggins crossing the line one second later to take fourth. Froome was fifth, seven seconds down, while Nibali took sixth, at 11 seconds.
Vuelta stage 9
Rodriguez, winner of stages five and eight, finished the stage back in 25th place, 50 seconds down on both Martin and Mollema, who takes over as surprise leader of the race ahead of Monday's 40km individual time trial around Salamanca.
Wiggins, who will be one of the favourites to take the ITT win, rises to 13th in the GC, exactly one minute behind 24-year-old Mollema, who became the first Dutch leader of the Vuelta in seven years, while Martin is now 12th, 55 seconds adrift.
Earlier in the day, a four-man breakaway rode more than 10 minutes up the road after two separate pairs of riders had broken clear on the descent of the first climb of the day, the Cat.3 Puerto de la Cruz de Hierro.
Two riders - German Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and the Dutch national champion Pim Ligthart - stayed out ahead until the final climb of the day, with Ligthart the first to crack before Lang, riding his third Grand Tour of his final season as a professional, was swept up inside the final 7km.
With Lang caught and passed, the scene was set for Martin's heroics and the unexpected time loss of both Rodriguez and Scarponi.
Monday's ITT around Salamanca takes place with 13 riders all within one minute of the race lead - and with Mollema no time trial specialist, we can expect another race leader on the eve of the Vuelta's opening rest day on Tuesday.Felix Lowe / Eurosport