Geraint Thomas slipped ahead of his teammate Chris Froome at the finish to stage six of the Tour de France as Irelands Dan Martin, one of the contenders for a top-three finish in Paris, took his first victory since 2013.
Martin, sixth overall in last years Tour and second on the Mr de Bretagne climb in the 2015 Tour, attacked in the final kilometre of the stage, in response to earlier moves from Julian Alaphilippe of France and Richie Porte of Australia, and held off a last-ditch pursuit from Pierre Latour, a team-mate of Romain Bardet, third overall in the 2017 Tour.
Its a great feeling to actually get a win again as Ive had so many second places in the Tour since the last win, Martin said. But today there was no question. I just attacked as hard as I could. It means this Tour is already a success and everything else will be a bonus.
Froome may only have lost five seconds on his Welsh teammate on the climb to the finish but in the group ahead of him with Thomas were his rivals Porte, Adam Yates and the past Grand Tour winners Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali. In the final I tried to play it a bit too late, said Thomas, who is now second, three seconds adrift of Greg Van Avermaet.
I knew it was quite a hard finish so I wanted to try and wait. By the time 200 metres was coming, the time had gone. [Alejandro] Valverde went so I knew I wasnt going to beat him for third. So I just stayed where I was and saved that 1% for another day.
Thomas, who snatched a couple of bonus seconds during the stage, said that he felt that everyone will be watching me now. He said: I got away with it twice, I dont think I could get away with it a third time. It was more just going for it because I saw theopportunity.
Thomas, who appeared to momentarily hesitate and look over his shoulder as he moved ahead of Froome, may now be able to take the race leaders yellow jersey before Mondays rest day. Others speculated over which rider on whom Team Sky would focus. Itll be interesting now to see if Sky back Geraint Thomas or Froome, Porte said. Froome is 62 seconds adrift of Van Avermaet.
But there were other reasons for Froome to be cheerful after Tom Dumoulin, who he had identified on Wednesday as his principal threat, and the French contender Romain Bardet fell behind him in the overall standings after losing time in the final kilometres.
The 2017 Giro dItalia champion Dumoulin lost the best part of a minute after puncturing five kilometres from the finish. He was then docked a further 20 seconds by the race judges for drafting behind a team car as he chased back on to the rear of the peloton.
While riding in the slipstream of a team car in a bid to chase back to the main field is often allowed, Dumoulins blatant drafting for long periods was ruled beyond the pale.
Bardet, who suffered a broken wheel, was forced to swap bikes with a teammate and lost more than half a minute to Martin. He is now well over a minute and a half behind Thomas in the overall standings before the Tour reaches his favoured terrain of the Alps. It wasnt a good day, Bardets team manager,Vincent Lavenu, said. The time gaps are mounting. Romain made a huge effort to get back to the peloton and he paid for it in the finale.
Bardet, who is widely touted in France as Froomes strongest rival, will have no choice but to go on the offensive when the mountain stages begin next week.
The polemics around Froomes presence continued. At the start village in Brest, the five-times Tour winner Bernard Hinault, who had called for the peloton to strike if Froome started the Tour, was unrepentant.
Hinault refused to speak about Froome with the British media but told French journalists he had no regrets. Regret what I said? Never. All I said was the truth of the matter, and thats it, the 63-year-old Breton said. You have to stand up for yourself in life, they have forgotten that.
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