He was looking forward to this particular summit finish, and we understood why. In the tough climb of Lo Port, finish of stage 5 of the Volta a Catalunya on Friday, Lenny Martinez clearly made another step forward. The 19-year-old climber caused a sensation over the day’s last eight kilometres, uphill, where he gradually gained places, jumping from group to group, to finally cross the line in sixth position. For his first WorldTour race, and against some of the world’s best climbers. Thanks to his stunning performance, he also gained three places in the general classification, as he now sits in 12th position two days from the finish.
Unlike the two previous summit finishes in the Volta a Catalunya, the one scheduled on Friday wasn’t preceded by another climb. Paradoxically, it seemed to suit better Lenny Martinez, leader of the Groupama-FDJ team since his ride to Vallter 2000. After placing fourteenth and nineteenth in the second and third stages, the young man wanted to take advantage of the steeper slopes of this stage 5. “I want to do even better”, he said at the start in Tortosa. “The goal is to get to the bottom of the climb with the best, to ride as hard as possible and to see where it leads me at the top”. Logically, his four remaining teammates stayed with him during the whole stage. “Soudal-Quick Step wanted to control the race from kilometre 0 on, and they did control all day”, said Jussi Veikkanen. “Our objective was to support Lenny, especially with Lada as a road captain. He had to lead the others for us to be at the right place at the right time. Everyone had a part to play before the final climb, and everyone did their job. Despite being down to five riders, we managed to do some good work, which shows the motivation of everyone”. At the head of the race, the breakaway’s composition changed during the day. Eventually, Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Pablo Castrillo, José Félix Parra, Hector Carretero (Equipo Kern Pharma), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Tsgabu Grmay (Jayco-AlUla) were able to tackle the final climb of Lo Port (8,6 km, 8,8%) in the lead.
“The test is passed”, Lenny Martinez
The bunch started the last ascent less than a minute later, and the pace proved very high on the first slopes. “We had a good approach to the final with the team, who did a great job again,” said Lenny Martinez. Slightly in the back, the former rider of “La Conti” had to close a few gaps at first but managed to join the favourites with six kilometres to go, when the early break was caught. He then hung on in the wheels, and when Remco Evenepoel attacked 1500 meters further on, he first caught his breath before making his way up. As the climb went on, the Groupama-FDJ rider caught and dropped some of his rivals, and not the least of them, to progressively enter the top-10. In the last kilometre, he even joined the fight for the top-5 with Rigoberto Uran, Mikel Landa, Michael Woods and Jai Hindley. Impressive, he eventually crossed the line in sixth place, forty-seven seconds behind the winner and leader Primoz Roglic. “I managed to come back little by little, without putting myself in the red, at my own pace, and I am very happy with this sixth place”, he said at the finish. “The test is passed, and it gives me good hopes for the future. I want to fight for the win going forward. I am still young, but I think that considering my current performances, it will be possible in a few years if I continue to improve. In any case, I am happy to be here, with all these great riders”.
“It’s really promising for the future”, Jussi Veikkanen
Lenny Martinez scored his second top-10 of the season after finishing eighth in the Grand Prix La Marseillaise, but it was surely something else. “You only have to look at the rankings to realize what kind of performance it is,” added Jussi Veikkanen. “It’s not the first time, because he was already up there in the previous summit finishes, but we can see that he is progressing. It’s really promising for the future. There are almost all the best climbers here apart from Pogacar, Vingegaard and David [Gaudu]. And when you’re a climber, you’re never here by chance. The legs do the talking. So, from that point of view, it’s nice to see what he managed to achieve today”. The young rider also climbed up to twelfth place in the overall classification, 3’16 behind Primoz Roglic and about 30 seconds away from the top-10. “If the climb would have been longer today, his position overall would have been better”, Jussi added. “Now we have two more difficult stages to go and there is still some work to do. One thing is certain: Roglic and Evenepoel will continue to fight until the end and that can also suit us”.