Despite the exciting finish in Caceres, not many people would have begrudged Tony Martin victory in Stage 6 of the Tour of Spain. He led from the third kilometre of the 175km stage but was unable to claim first place, instead finishing seventh as the final sprint proved too much for him.
Don't expect him to make the same mistakes in Stage 7.
Wow Tony Martin tour of Spain, what a machine. So close.— Aeromax Team (@aeromaxteam) August 30, 2013
Stages 5, 6 and 7 are slight anomalies in the Tour of Spain, as they all favour the sprinters. While still not especially flat, within a Tour that's particularly bereft of such luxuries they come as a welcome change of pace.
Martin won the 2011 and 2012 UCI Road World Championships Time Trial, so his performance in Stage 6 wasn't much of a surprise. What was surprising, however, was the way no one seemed to follow his lead as he made a break with 172km to go.
As reported by BBC Sport, even Martin himself was surprised by the way the race unfolded:
I wanted to break away and I was hoping to go with a few other guys but nobody could follow so I just kept going. I couldn't go any faster than I did in the last 200m.When you do something like that it's always bittersweet. From one end you think you could have won with a bit more luck—on the other hand I felt like a winner.
Martin was forced to judge the pace of the race from way out in front, amassing a seven-minute lead at one point. This lead was cut to 10 seconds before he made another break with 10km to go but couldn't quite hold on. Michael Morkov of Denmark took first place for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, while Martin was overtaken in the final 20m by a total of six riders.
With this fresh in his mind, Martin will have another chance at victory in Stage 7.
Martin's excellent record in time trials will give the German an edge as the riders set off from Almendralejo. Since no one seemed confident enough to do so before, he'll need to set his own pace again. The three roundabouts toward the end of the stage will form the start of the final sprint and may actually work in Martin's favour. He'll need to hold off the pack waiting on his back wheel as they make a break for the line in Mairena del Aljarafe.
There are no climbs to this stage, so it's vital that he gets in front early. However, he'll need to learn his lesson from the previous stage. A lead is one thing, but it's crucial that he times his breakaway from the main group a little better.
Look for Martin to kick around Las Pajanosas and the 138km mark. With nothing in front of him but flat, empty road for the final 67.9km, he should be able to win Stage 7 and claim the victory he sorely deserved the previous day.