Dan Martin has a six-second lead in the Volta a Catalunya after winning a thrilling summit finish to the third stage by two seconds.

He held off a chasing group which included Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to win stage three of the Volta a Catalunya and seize the overall race lead.

The Etixx-QuickStep rider pipped Contador, Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) to win the stage,

Van Garderen's Australian teammate Richie Porte came in fifth across the line, nine seconds behind the winner.

Martin now has a six-second lead on Contador, with Porte in sixth 19 seconds back heading into Thursday's fourth stage from Baga to Port Aine.

The stage came together on the La Molina (11.1 km, 4.5 per cent average gradient) where Sky controlled the peloton before sending Wout Poels to the attack.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) quickly responded, followed by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who had a short dig.

Inside the final kilometer, just as the stage paused for a breath, Martin sensed an opportunity and attacked, putting some distance between him and his opponents, which he held to the finish.

“I am so happy for this win," Martin said. "The guys were incredible! Since this morning they said they will ride for me and did a fantastic job.

"It’s great to see how much confidence they have in me, and this only makes me stronger.

"I knew this finish, and what helped is that it was similar to the one in Valenciana, Alto de Fredes. In the key moments I stayed at the front and I was relaxed all the time.

"There was some headwind on the climb, so it was important to time the attack to perfection on that steep part of La Molina."

“That’s another hard climb, and it will be difficult to defend the jersey. Still, we have a very strong team and will try to keep the lead. The time gaps are always small in this race, so who will come out on top tomorrow will probably win the GC.”

Stage 4 from Baga to Port Ainé runs 172.2km and is another to suit the climbers. The finish is 18.5km long and averages 6.8 per cent, with the final four kilometers having a gradient of 8.3 per cent.

“That’s another hard climb, and it will be difficult to defend the jersey," Martin said. "Still, we have a very strong team and will try to keep the lead.

"The time gaps are always small in this race, so who will come out on top tomorrow will probably win the GC.”

Thursday 24 Mar 2016

”What is important now is to see how I recover ahead of tomorrow. I came here with a cold from Paris-Nice and in that sense it's positive.

"The worst of it is behind me, otherwise I couldn't have achieved this result. Tomorrow's stage, in principle, is more suited to my characteristics and we'll try to perform better.

"Daniel Martin is a strong rider and knows what it is to win on tomorrow's climb since he took the GC there in 2013. It isn't a surprise either, that he won today, and right now he's the one best placed for the GC.

"Nevertheless, I think that we can't draw many conclusions from the climb today. We rode in a group, the wind was blowing strong and the climb, with the exception of the first three kilometres, was quite tolerable.

"Still, I think Martin has the best chances for the GC right now."