Ireland’s Martin wins the Tour de France Stage 6, Belgian Van Avermaet keeps lead
MUR DE BRETAGNE, France — Daniel Martin of Ireland won an uphill finish to claim Stage 6 of the Tour de France on Thursday, while Greg Van Avermaet kept the yellow jersey for a third consecutive day.
Defending champion Chris Froome crossed eight seconds after Martin in 18th. That left the Sky leader 1:02 off Van Avermaet’s overall lead.
Martin broke away at the midway point of the straight two-kilometer ascent of the Mur de Bretagne, winning the 181-kilometer leg that started in the western port city of Brest in over four hours.
The UAE Emirates leader counterattacked when Richie Porte jumped ahead and nobody immediately tried to reel him in.
“I saw the moment. I had really good legs and when I went my legs kept coming and coming,” Martin said. “I knew if I could get a gap it would be difficult to close from behind.”
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Pierre Latour crossed the line second followed by Alejandro Valverde in third.
It was Martin’s second Tour stage win after his first in 2013.
Van Avermaet, a support rider for Porte, has held the yellow jersey since BMC won the team time-trial on Stage 3.
“(Porte) can be confident after this climb,” Van Avermaet said. “We use me (as the leader) to ease the pressure off him.”
Title hopefuls Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) were the big losers of the day.
Dumoulin, the time trial world champion and 2017 Giro d’Italia winner, was slowed by a tire puncture at the foot of the final ascent and lost 53 seconds. He entered the stage seventh overall and finished it 15th and one second behind Froome.
Bardet was left 1:45 back in 23rd overall after a spoke on his bike broke.
“Then I had to chase and that effort was fatal. It’s never good to lose time,” said Bardet, who has finished on the podium in the past two Tours. “There are a lot of twists on the Tour and this time luck was not on our side.”
Martin was one of several team leaders along with former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali and two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana who were caught off-guard by an attack by Quick-Step 100 kilometers into the stage during a straightaway that was exposed to crosswinds.
A group of around 40 riders including Froome opened up a gap of over a minute, but Martin and the rest worked to reunite the peloton.
A four-man breakaway earned a seven-minute advantage before being swallowed up late.
Riders twice went up the Mur de Bretagne, or “Wall of Brittany,” which the local cycling-crazed Bretons affectionately refer to as their smaller version of the famous Alpe d’Huez. While that Alp ascent awaiting on Stage 12 rises to 1,850 meters, the Mur de Bretagne tops out at 293 meters.
The course route that took riders along the lovely rolling hills of northwestern France included a pass through the town of Carhaix, which boasts four Breton winners of the Tour, including the great Bernard Hinault.
Froome is trying to join Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.
This was the first summit finish of this Tour. After the relatively flat first nine days, the race will head south and into the Alps and then the Pyrenees Mountains.
Friday’s flat 231-kilometer leg from Fougeres to Chartes is the longest stage of this Tour.
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