By Tadhg Peavoy
Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp has won the Volta a Catalunya in Barcelona today, becoming only the second Irishman to achieve the feat.
Martin, who had led the race’s general classification since winning stage four on Thursday, finished towards the front of the field today to maintain his 17-second lead over Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha to win the seven-stage tour.
Martin follows in the foot steps of Waterford's Sean Kelly, who won the Volta in 1984 and 1986.
The final stage, a 122km ride from El Vendrell to Barcelona which included eight passes over the category three Alt de Montjuic, was won by Belgium's Tomas de Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM in a bunch sprint in a time of 2:45:42. Spain's David Lopez Garcia of Sky rolled home second.
Martin finished in 42nd spot the chasing group, having earlier tracked attacks from GC threats Rodriguez and Italian Michele Scarponi of Lampre.
The victory goes down as the biggest of Martin's career to date usurping his GC victories in the 2008 Route du Sud and the 2010 Tour of Poland.
"Winning here in Catalunya is very special, it's my home," Martin, who has lived in the Catalan town of Girona for the last five years, told reporters.
"This is my most special victory ever and I think I'm going stronger than ever before.
"The key to the win has been (Giro 2012 winner and team-mate) Ryder Hesjedal for his hard work in the break to Port Aine and in fact the whole team has done a lot of great work on each stage."
"We've had to defend ourselves from a lot of different attacks. Right up until the last lap we had to suffer and Rodriguez made several really difficult moves," the Irishman continued.
Asked what his next objective will be, Martin joked: "To go out this night to celebrate it all. No seriously, it's the Ardennes Classics (in Belgium in April) where I want to make the most of my good form."
Volta a Catalunya, Spain (WorldTour)
Stage 7: El Vendrell - Barcelona:
1 Thomas De Gendt (Belgium / Vacansoleil) 2:45:42
2 David Lopez (Spain / Team Sky) ST
3 Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia / RadioShack)
4 Michele Scarponi (Italy / Lampre)
5 Samuel Dumoulin (France / AG2R)
1 Daniel Martin (Ireland / Garmin) 29:02:25
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain / Katusha) +17
3 Michele Scarponi (Italy / Lampre) +34
4 Nairo Quintana (Colombia / Movistar) +45
5 Bradley Wiggins (Britain / Team Sky) +54