Friday, August 5, 2011

Big Day for Daniel Martin...

Irishman, Garmin-Cervelo rider, and defending champion, Daniel Martin took a big step in the right direction in his bid to repeat as champion of the Tour of Poland. Today was the final real chance for Martin to unseat his biggest rival, Peter Sagan, who came into the day's stage atop the overall standings. Martin produced a big effort within the final 25 km, attacking Sagan on numerous occasions, in attempts to drop the Liquigas team leader. Sagan, with the assistance of teammate, Vincenzo Nibali, neutralized most of the attacks from Martin, until with one kilometer to go, the Irishman gave one final big effort which allowed him to pull free of Sagan and the peloton for good. Sagan finished 13 seconds behind Martin, which when combined with the time bonus for first on the stage, gives Daniel a 3 second lead going into the final stage. Also in play, for the final stage is Italian racer, Marco Marcato, of the Vacansoleil-DCM team, who sits in third spot with the same time as Sagan. That is not much of a margin, and when you again factor in time bonuses, the final stage seems set for a dramatic showdown, not only between those three riders, but their teams as well.

Update: So the big day, was followed by a not quite so big day. If it was going to come down to a contest of sprints, Martin would be the clear underdog against the better sprinting Sagan, and that is how the final stage played out. Sagan, who has won the Points Competition at the Tour of California the past two years, gained two seconds back on Martin at the intermediate sprint, to close to within one second of the lead. Sagan then finished second at the end of the race (to four stage victor, Marcel Kittel) for additional time bonus, good enough to end the seven-stage race six second clear of Martin. Afterwards Martin said, "it's too bad, but I proved that I'm the strongest on climbs in one of the races I love the most. Now I hope I can improve even more as I look forward to the Vuelta."

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