The award for stealthiest stage race victory of 2023 so far goes to Daniel Martínez at the Volta ao Algarve. Everyone was paying so much attention to his two teammates, Tom Pidcock defending the overall lead and Filippo Ganna roaring back from ninth, that no one seemed to notice the Colombian in the middle.
But Martínez stormed to fourth place in the final time trial in Lagoa to snatch the third stage race title of his career, after the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2020 and Itzulia Basque Country in 2022.
In doing so, the 26-year-old strengthened his credentials as he prepares to lead Ineos at this year’s Tour de France, where he finished a disappointing 29th overall last year.
“It’s the biggest race and without doubt I want to go back and take revenge,” Martínez told Cyclingnews after his visit to the podium in the Algarve.
“Last year I went in with good form but contracted a small respiratory bug which took me out of contention. After that it was very tough to recover, with the heat and with the level at the Tour. This year I hope to turn the page on that experience.
“I will enjoy this victory in the Algarve but take things step by step towards the Tour. That’s the big objective but even before then we have important races like Paris-Nice, Basque Country, and the Ardennes, where I need to be in good shape too.”
Martínez lined up for last year’s Tour sharing leadership with Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates, and, while he could in theory end up once again as part of a trident, he may equally end up with it all to himself this year.
Egan Bernal has stated his ambition to return to the Tour this summer but it remains to be seen whether he can rediscover the level that saw him win the 2019 edition as he continues his comeback from a life-threatening crash a year ago. Meanwhile, Tom Pidcock will return after his victory on Alpe d’Huez last year, although any thoughts of GC are tentative at best.
“Dani is our main focus for the Tour at the moment,” Ineos Grenadiers’ deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth told Cyclingnews in the Algarve.
“With Egan, I’m not putting any expectations on him at all. I think that would be unfair. He will have his own expectations because that’s how driven he is. But you can’t say anything about the Tour yet. It’s totally open.
“You can’t fault what he has done. It’s pretty phenomenal where he is. He sends me videos and updates of what he’s doing in training and he couldn’t be doing any more, to be honest. We’re running with…
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