MEGEVE, France — Colombian rider Daniel Martinez won the Criterium du Dauphine race for the first time after leader Primoz Roglic pulled out before Sunday’s final stage.
Martinez becomes the third Colombian to win the stage race – shortened slightly this year because of the coronavirus – after Martin Ramirez (1984) and Luis Herrera (1988 and 1991).
“It’s one of the most amazing days of my life, it’s one of the most important races and I’m just so happy to have achieved it,” Martinez said. “I’m still so tired from the race and still can’t quite believe that it’s happened. It’s incredible.”
The 24-year-old Martinez rides for the EF Pro Cycling team, which is headed by American CEO Jonathan Vaughters – a former climbing specialist who rode on the Tour de France.
Martinez dedicated the win to his family.
“Without doubt I want to say that this race is for all my family and my little boy, this win is for them,” he said. “This is for all the people who have believed in me and the ones who have helped support me.”
The Slovenian Roglic led Frenchman Thibaut Pinot by 14 seconds overnight but decided to abandon after crashing midway through Saturday’s penultimate stage.
That gave Pinot, who is expected to be among the contenders to win the upcoming Tour, an ideal chance. But it was Martinez who jumped from fifth overall to claim an unexpected victory, finishing 29 seconds ahead of Pinot overall and 41 clear of French rider Guillaume Martin.
“I failed in reaching the goal I had set myself this morning. I can only feel disappointed,” Pinot said. “I didn’t have the legs, I didn’t do what I needed to in order to win, I can only be angry with myself.”
American rider Sepp Kuss won the fifth and final stage itself, a 153.5-kilometer (95.2-mile) mountain trek which started and finished in the Alpine ski resort of Megeve.
Kuss won comfortably in 3 hours, 58 minutes, 39 seconds. Martinez was 27 seconds behind and Slovenian Tadej Pogacar 30 seconds back in third.
Another big-name rider pulled out on Sunday, with Colombian climbing ace Nairo Quintana deciding his knee pains were too much.
Quintana has won the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta, but has his heart set on winning the Tour.
He must now recover in time for the Aug. 29.-Sept. 20 race.