The general classification was supposed to get clearer this Saturday in the monster stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya. Although the race turned out to be extremely hard and some gaps were made after covering 4000 metres of elevation gain, everything isn’t done yet. After placing eighth on this very challenging day, two minutes behind Tadej Pogacar, Lenny Martinez lost three positions in the general classification (7th). However, he is only six seconds behind fourth place, and just one second behind the two riders in front of him. The Montjuic circuit on Sunday could therefore still bring some changes.

Five classified climbs (including a HC one), a summit finish, 4000 metres of elevation gain, and almost no flat. This was the menu for the queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya, which took the riders from Berga to Queralt across 154 kilometers on Saturday. Everything was set for a huge fight between the GC contenders, and the breakaway indeed never really had its say in this sixth day of racing. Bauke Mollema and Hugh Carthy did manage to get away quite early, but the peloton immediately controlled them and prevented anyone from launching new attacks. The duo could pass the first two climbs with a two-minute lead, but everything already came back together halfway through the race, just before tackling the biggest climb of the day: the Coll de Pradell (15km at 6.5%). The bunch lost a few riders at first, before completely exploding in the climb’s last five kilometres averaging more than 10%. “Pogacar was even pulling there,” said Lenny Martinez. “At the summit, there weren’t many of us left.” They were exactly twelve in the lead with sixty kilometres to go, and the young Frenchman perfectly maintained his position at that point. After a very long descent and a bit of valley, around twenty men came back from behind, but the Collada de Sant Isidre (5km at 8.7) came right after, and the selection occurred again.

“I wasn’t able to get away in the valley,” Lenny Martinez

Lenny Martinez first kept up with the pace of Movistar, then managed to cope with Tadej Pogacar’s first attack. However, when the Slovenian went for it again with 30 kilometres to go, the young French climber was logically distanced behind the race leader and Mikel Landa. “I couldn’t follow,” said Lenny. “I just tried to survive with the rest of the favourites. I also had to save some energy for the last climb, where everything could still be done.” However, twenty kilometres of descent and valley were to be covered between the summit of the penultimate climb and the bottom of the final one, and some riders took the opportunity to go on the attack, such as Egan Bernal or Enric Mas. The other favorites looked at each other, which made them lose a minute in this transition part. “I wasn’t able to get away in the valley alone like Bernal or Mas did,” said Lenny. “We knew it would be a real man-to-man fight in the final,” added Thierry Bricaud. “They attacked in the valley, and Lenny probably lacked a little concentration and experience. He was strong, but that’s tactically that he found himself behind in the final. The race circumstances didn’t go his way.”

“It’s a bit frustrating”, Thierry Bricaud

The young Frenchman therefore began the final climb with a significant delay on his podium competitors. After the first slopes, he found himself with Joao Almeida, Antonio Tiberi, Lorenzo Fortunato and Aleksandr Vlasov, but the gaps did not change much. A faster final kilometre allowed him to get back just behind Mas and Harper, and to drop Vlasov, while securing eighth place, 2’18 behind Tadej Pogacar. “It’s the kind of stage that you don’t forget,” he said shortly after the finish. “It is already one of the hardest of my career. It was full gas the whole time.” For a handful of seconds, Lenny Martinez unfortunately lost three places in the general classification, going from fourth to seventh position. On Saturday evening, he sits six seconds behind Vlasov, fourth, and only one second behind Mas and Harper, fifth and sixth respectively. “It’s a bit frustrating for him, and it doesn’t represent his level this week,” added Thierry. “He’s for sure among the five strongest, but that’s racing. He’s just a few seconds away from doing much better. We will take stock tomorrow, it is not over, but whatever happens he’s done a great Volta a Catalunya.” The final chance to gain positions overall will be decided around Barcelona and the Montjuic circuit on Sunday. “I did the stage last year,” concluded Lenny. “Pogacar will probably go solo and behind, it’s going to be tactical. The climb is short, but I’m ready.”

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