IRELAND’S DAN MARTIN — riding for UAE Team Emirates — has won stage six of the Tour de France, from Brest to the Mûr-de-Bretagne, after pulling off a daring, late attack to snatch a stunning victory.
It is the 31-year-old’s second Tour stage win after he triumphed in the Pyrenees five years ago, and becomes the third Irishman to win two stages of the Tour after Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche.
“I felt really good yesterday and that was a really good sign for today. I felt comfortable,” Martin said afterwards.
“I attacked as hard as I could. It was great to claw a few seconds back, but more importantly, it’s a stage victory.”
Overnight leader Greg van Avermaet (BMC) finished just behind in the main peloton to retain the yellow jersey ahead of Friday’s seventh stage.
Van Avermaet leads Britain’s Geraint Thomas (Sky) by three seconds in the overall standings, with American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) at five and six seconds respectively.
In a frantic finale that saw Martin break free of the pack 1km from the finish line to finish ahead of AG2R’s Pierre Latour, defending champion Chris Froome of Team Sky lost eight seconds to his key rivals.
But Froome was not alone.
AG2R’s Romain Bardet cracked in the heat of the final ascent and lost 31 seconds, while fellow contender Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), the 2017 Giro d’Italia champion, lost nearly a minute after suffering a mechanical problem.
A group of five riders broke free early on the 181km run and when the Quick Step team of stage contender Julian Alaphilippe suddenly accelerated on a plain, the peloton split into three with 100km remaining.
Nairo Quintana, already 2 minutes 10 seconds down, and former Sky man Mikel Landa, were caught in the second of three groups and had to work long and hard to get back in the lead pack.
Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, also caught in the split, failed to close the gap back to the lead group. He dropped to 10th overall at 53 seconds in arrears.
But it was on the final climb that the action took flight. England’s Adam Yates and the Mitchelton Scott team were shaping up for an attack, only for BMC’s Richie Porte to beat them to it.
As the Australian started to put his foot down, Martin flew past everyone and swiftly opened up a gap with a full 500m to climb.
The 31-year-old held on with a fast-closing Latour on his tail to claim the win and avenge his defeat on the Mur de Bretagne three years ago when the Irishman was denied by AG2R’s Alexis Vuillermoz.
He added: “I came to this team to be the leader and the pressure at the beginning, of being the leader is why I didn’t do so well in Spring.
“But there’s a great feeling in the bus now, laughing and joking and this win is for them, they really looked after me.
“It was an early break but it was my only opportunity for the stage win as I’d never have got it in a sprint.
“When you get an opportunity, if you think about it, it’s gone. You just go. So I set off, kept my head down, kept going and my legs felt good.”
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