Morkov Overtakes Martin at Line, Wins Stage 6 of Vuelta
Martin made the stage. He jumped clear when the field reached the end of the neutral zone, and der Panzerwagen (the tank), as the German is nicknamed, led the peloton by 0:40 at five km, 1:44 at 10 km, and 7:24 at 26 km. Astana was not chasing, so Belkin and Orica-GreenEdge went to the front to peg the lead.
Christian Meier, a time trial specialist, did yeoman work for Orica-GreenEdge, and the gap narrowed to 5:35 at 83 km. Argos-Shimano joined Orica-GreenEdge, and Martin’s advantage had fallen to 4:20 at 100 km. With 50 km left, Martin led the peloton by 3.25.
Orica-GreenEdge did most of the chasing, and the Australian squad narrowed the gap to 0:50 with 20 km left and 0:15 with 15 km to go.
Astana started to chase, but the Kazakh team did not make inroads into Martin’s advantage. With 10 km remaining, the German led by 0:16. With the entire field chasing, however, and with the Omega Pharma- Quick Step man’s lead so narrow, he appeared to be doomed.
Movistar took over at the front with seven km left, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step followed suit one km later to block the chase. Cannondale then took command and gnawed away at the lead, after which Argos-Shimano took up the chase. With two km remaining, Martin led the field by 0:09.
Garmin-Sharp cut into the German’s advantage, which was 0:06 at the one-km banner. Martin continued to battle as the leadout trains formed behind him. The bunch, led by Morkov, overtook him. Martin settled for seventh.
Before the Vuelta, Morkov set the goal of winning one stage. He was happy to have accomplished his goal and was particularly happy to do so as the Danish road champion. “I’m so happy about this win and unbelievably proud,” Morkov said. “Winning in the Danish national jersey is special but to win in the Vuelta a Espana is probably the highlight of my career. I have been waiting for this opportunity, and the guys and staff have been supportive all the way. I just stayed on the wheel of Fabian [Cancellara] in the final few hundred meters, and I was worried about opening the sprint too soon, but it was perfect.”
Martin had mixed emotions about his ride. "It was an unusual time trial of almost four hours," Martin said. "I decided to enter the breakaway to try and protect the team. Because even if I was caught, in the final we will also have Gianni Meersman and Andrew Fenn able to do something good in the sprint. So, I decided to go and suddenly I was alone but I took immediately a few minutes. At that point I said, ‘why not?’ Actually, I think it was a good move. I always went pretty good. I have to say the tailwind helped me. Without it, there was no chance to go until the end. In the final, the gap was really small. At 10km to go they were really close, and I thought about giving up. But no, I decided to relaunch the action and then I started thinking when they couldn’t close the gap that maybe I can do it after all. But, I was tired with five km to go, the parcours was hard in the final and worked against me with some small uphills, and also the peloton was going full gas. I stayed focused on the finish line. It was a strange feeling. I saw the stripe of the finish line and could hear the peloton behind at the same time. But I was really going all out with my legs. I couldn't go any faster than I did in the last 200 meters. Unfortunately, they caught me. As usual when you do something like that it's always bittersweet. From one end you think you could have won with a bit more luck. On the other hand I felt like a winner. Everybody wanted to talk with me after the finish. I had the feeling I did something great and difficult. I also went to the podium for the combativity award. It was really special to be there in front of the public. If I want to think positively it was also great training for the World Championships. The line between doing something super and losing is really thin in this sport, but you have to try. I think it was the first time I did a breakaway like this, especially for so long. Even if I didn't win I will have it in my memories for a long time."
In the overall, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) leads Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:03 and Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) by 0:08. Stage 7, a rolling, 205.9-km ride from Almendralejo to Mirena de Aljarefe, will be another stage that the sprinters will decide. Who will win? Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)? Recheze? Meersman? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!