Still it was the sprint teams setting the pace further back, and the race came back together with 26km left to race.
While it appeared set up for a bunch sprint, Martin sensed an opportunity and attacked on the Cote de Secheras, with Aru, Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) and Tsgabu Grmay (Dimension Data) trying to bridge.
Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) and Steve Morabito (FDJ) also joined the move though the gap never appeared too threatening.
Aru had other ideas, however, and with ten kilometres remaining had forged a solo lead of eight seconds – Martin being caught by the bunch and crashing once he was back in it.
Splits in the bunch appeared as a result of the crash and the frantic chase – and Contador’s mechanical – but El Pistolero returned to the peloton safely.
Aru would not be brought back, however, holding his slender two-second advantage through to the finish line as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) sprinted for second place.
Criterium du Dauphine 2016: stage three – result
1) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana – 4.19.54hrs
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha +2”
3) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
4) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – Etixx-QuickStep
5) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Dimension Data
6) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Bora-Argon 18
7) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
9) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10) Arthur Vichot (FRA) – FDJ