In driving rain and with the formidable finish at Formigal, the Irishman used all his climbing ability and experience to limit his losses to several key rivals and drop race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on the final ascent to finish 18th on the stage, 1:23 down on breakaway survivor and winner Ion Izagirre (Astana).
Martin formed an elite group with Roglič, Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Enric Mas (Movistar) in the last few kilometres after Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) had broken away in the rain. With 1km to go, Martin accelerated away from Roglič, Chavez and Mas. At the line, he had put 15 seconds into Roglič, with Mas conceding a further five.
Caparaz’s move lifted him from third overall to first, while Carthy, who dropped Carapaz in the closing stages, also leapfrogged Martin into second overall. The Irishman now trails Carapaz by 20 seconds with Carthy just two seconds ahead as the race reaches its first rest day on Monday. Roglič lost 48 seconds to Carapaz after showing his first sign of weakness in the race, and the Tour de France runner-up is now fourth at 30 seconds.
For Martin, who already has a stage win to his name, and has looked to be in his best form in years, the result had both positive and negative aspects but given where he was during the Tour, the 34-year-old will be more than pleased with his race after six days of action. Given the conditions on the road and his previous problems in the cold and rain, Martin understandably leaned towards the more pleasing aspects of his performance – especially given the amount of time that he put into several of his top-10 rivals.
“When I saw the weather today, it made me more focused as it makes the stage even more tricky. With the downhills and the cold it adds more possibilities to make mistakes and lose time so I’m really happy to get through with another good performance,” he said at the finish.
“I felt good on the last climb but the higher we climbed, the colder I got and my body just stopped working. It was a case of just riding as hard as I could to the line. Carapaz and Carthy were really good and obviously coped with the conditions better than me, but I have had bad days in the cold before so this shows how good my condition is. It’s been an incredibly tough week of aggressive racing so we are really content with our position going into the rest day.
"The guys again gave their all for me and I was well supported until right into the final kilometres. I really cannot ask for more and the team's belief in me is driving me forward. We will enjoy the rest day but still just thinking day-by-day and staying focused,” said Martin.
After Monday’s rest day, the Vuelta a España continues with another tough stage to Villanueva de Valdegovia before Wednesday’s next summit finish at Alto de Moncalvillo.