Tour de France 2018: Dan Martin storms to stage six success on Mur de Bretagne
Birmingham-born Irishman attacks early on final climb to claim victory
Dan Martin attacked early on the final climb of the Mur de Bretagne to win stage six of the 2018 Tour de France.
Martin burst clear of a select group of GC favourites and stage hunters and held on to his advantage all the way up, as Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) fell just short of chasing him down.
There was plenty of drama at the back of the bunch, meanwhile, as Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) both lost time after ill-timed mechanicals.
Chris Froome was also the wrong side of a late time split, but his losses were cut to five seconds as he actually climbed overall to 14th.
Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing), meanwhile, retained the yellow jersey after finishing 12th on the stage. He now leads Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) by three seconds after the Welshman pinched another couple of seconds at the bonus sprint.
Both Thomas and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) were in the top ten on the stage, with the latter now 13th overall at 1.02 - the same time as Froome.
Five riders formed the day’s breakaway – former KoM leader Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) among them, while Direct Energie put two in the break for the second day running in Damien Gaudin and Fabien Grellier.
Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Samsic) were the other two riders in the breakaway and they led by seven minutes early on, until the pace of the peloton ramped up behind.
QuickStep tried to split the bunch in the wind, dropping the hammer after earning prime road position around a roundabout onto a wide-open, long, straight stretch, and they were successful as three groups formed.
With Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) among those reported in the second group, the pace was high at the front of both and they soon came back together.
Primož Roglič was the highest-profile rider in the third group and it took a huge effort from his LottoNL-Jumbo team-mates to bring the bunch back together, only for Roglič to crash onto a traffic island just after the catch was made.
He remounted and chased back on again, and he was not the only rider suffering his fair share of misfortune on the day – Fuglsang being forced to chase back on again after another crash in the bunch.
While all this was happening, Smith took a few more points in the mountains classification, while Fichon led through the intermediate sprint before Gaudin went solo.
The speed in the bunch meant the gap was shut down before they even crested the Mur de Bretagne the first time, however – allowing polka-dot jersey Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) to grab two more climbing points.
Stage six analysis
The Mur de Bretagne finish was always going to be well suited to Dan Martin but the way he surged away from his rivals with more than a kilometre to ride was hugely impressive.
Gaps behind meant there was plenty of excitement - and not just because of the mechanicals suffered by Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet.
These were the sort of stages the race was badly lacking in the first week last year. Today we had crosswinds, attacks and a final climb which produced some splits in the main bunch - a great day's racing.
Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott) went solo off the front moments later, but that still left two bonus seconds up for grabs at the bonus sprint, and Thomas grabbed them.
At the back, Dumoulin suffered an ill-timed mechanical and lost time on the bunch, while Bardet was grateful to Mathias Frank for lending him a wheel in similar circumstances. Dumoulin's chase back fell foul of race commisaires too, as he was hit with a 20-second time penalty.
On the final climb, the attacks started early – Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Thomas and Martin all showing at the front.
Martin accelerated with more than a kilometre remaining and had a sizable gap with 450m to go as Latour hunted him down at speed.
Bardet was spat out the back, paying for his earlier efforts and the poor position he ended up with in the bunch because of it.
Martin could not be brought back, meanwhile, holding off Latour by several bike lengths to celebrate his second Tour stage win – and first since 2013.
Tour de France 2018: stage six - result
1) Daniel Martin (IRL) - UAE-Team Emirates - 4.13.43hrs
2) Pierre Latour (FRA) - Ag2r-La Mondiale +1"
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) - Movistar +3"
4) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) - QuickStep Floors - ST
5) Rafal Majka (POL) - Bora-hansgrohe
6) Adam Yates (GBR) - Mitchelton-Scott
7) Bauke Mollema (NED) - Trek-Segafredo
8) Peter Sagan (SVK) - Bora-hansgrohe
9) Geraint Thomas (GBR) - Team Sky
10) Primoz Roglic (SVN) - LottoNL-Jumbo
1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) - BMC Racing - 22.35.46hrs
2) Geraint Thomas (GBR) - Team Sky +3"
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA) - BMC Racing +5"
4) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) - QuickStep Floors +6"
5) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) - QuickStep Floors +12"
6) Bob Jungels (LUX) - QuickStep Floors +18"
7) Rigoberto Uran (COL) - EF-Drapac +45"
8) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) - Movistar +51"
9) Rafal Majka (POL) - Bora-hansgrohe +52"
10) Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) - Astana +53"
11) Richie Porte (AUS) - BMC Racing - ST
12) Mikel Landa (ESP) - Movistar +55"
13) Adam Yates (GBR) - Mitchelton-Scott +1.02
14) Chris Froome (GBR) - Team Sky - ST
17) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) - Bahrain-Merida +1.08
19) Tom Dumoulin (NED) - Team Sunweb +1.23
23) Romain Bardet (FRA) - Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.45
27) Nairo Quintana (COL) - Movistar +2.10