By Tadhg Peavoy
Dan Martin has won stage four of the Volta a Catalunya in Port Ainé-Rialp by 36 seconds, a victory which elevates the Irish rider to the top of the race's general classification.
Martin broke away from the leading group in the final kilometres of the 217.7km queen's stage, leaving the field in his wake as he accelerated up the hors catégorie 1,947m climb to Port Ainé.
The Garmin-Sharp rider was chased hard by Spaniard Joaquim Rodriquez of Katusha and Nairo Alexander Quintana of Movistar as they tried track the Irishman down; however, Birmingham-born Martin held on to win the stage by 36 seconds from both Rodriguez and Quintana in a time of 6:02:40.
As a result of the superb mountain top victory, Martin assumes the overall lead of the race by ten seconds, with three stages to go, having been placed ninth overall after stage three.
Rodriguez is second in the GC, just ten seconds behind Martin.
Overnight leader Alejandro Valverde of Movistar crashed out of the race midway through the stage today.
Martin's compatriot Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff attacked from the leading group on the stage's penultimate climb up the 1,730m hors catégorie Port de Cantó.
@danmartin86 amazing ride!!!! No regrets on my attak today. Dan was so strong i would not have been able to follow any way ! Top job Dan!!!— Nicholas Roche (@nicholasroche) March 21, 2013
However, Roche was caught on the final ascent leaving Martin to break away for the stage victory.
After the race, Girona-based Martin told the assembled press: “It’s one of my best victories.
“To have Ryder [Hesjedal] working for me in the breakaway like that all day was just incredible.
"I was thinking more about the stage win today, so to get the leader’s jersey is just incredible" - Dan Martin
"I didn’t do much in the breakaway. I felt kind of bad, but it’s an incredible victory for me today.
"I know how difficult it is to win out a breakaway. To finally get a victory here in the mountains of my home race is very important for me.”
“I will try to defend the jersey all the way to the end. The climb at Montjuic [on the final stage] is perfect for Joaquim,” continued Martin.
“I know he will be going for it in his hometown.
"I was thinking more about the stage win today, so to get the leader’s jersey is just incredible.
"I know I was going pretty slow in those last two kilometers. I really didn’t start thinking that I was going to win until 100m to go.”
The Volta ends on Sunday in Barcelona.
Volta a Catalunya, Spain (WorldTour)
Stage 4: Llanars-Vall de Camprodon - Port Ainé-Rialp:
1 Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) 217.7 km in 6 hours 2 mins 40 secs
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) at 36 seconds
3 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Movistar) same time
4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) at 47 secs5 Robert Gesink (Blanco Pro Cycling Team) at 51 secs
1 Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) 18 hours 48 mins 38 secs
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) at 10 secs
3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) at 32 secs
4 Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at 36 secs
5 Michele Scarponi (Lampre Merida) at 39 secs