Dan Martin took victory in the sixth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday – earning the Irishman the second Tour de France stage win of his career and in doing so becoming the first ever UAE Team Emirates rider to claim the coveted prize.
Martin’s win came after a bold late attack on the Mur de Bretagne climb.
It was a sweet victory for stage winner Martin, who had lost out on the same climb three years ago to AG2R’s Alexis Vuillermoz. On Thursday, the UAE man attacked at the end and held off Pierre Latour’s late charge.
“This is such an amazing feeling for me because I’ve had so many second places at the Tour since winning my first stage in 2013,” said the 31-year-old.
“I was really relaxed all day and I was really looking forward to having a crack. When we got closer to the finish I was a bit nervous because of the head wind and I didn’t think it was going to happen.
“Then the race went really hard during the first part of the climb and a lot of riders got dropped and at that point I noticed that I didn’t have any team-mates left so I thought why not have a try – and I did.
The former Quick-Step rider, who finished sixth on Wednesday’s race, has looked strong in the saddle all week and had highlighted this stage as one of his main goals for the Tour.
The team protected Martin well throughout the 181km route, allowing him to match all the attacks and accelerations in the final kilometres of the race.
On the final climb to the line, Martin timed his own attack to perfection and, as the gradient ramped up to 12 per cent, he animated the race by powering away from the peloton and holding off the chasers to take UAE Team Emirates’ first stage win of this year’s Tour de France.
Martin continued: “It was the same place that I tried to attack in 2015, but got boxed in. It was a case of waiting for everybody to be in the red, because I know I can go further into the red.
“I put in an explosive attack that I didn’t know I still had, but there was no way I was letting anyone beat me to the line. Thankfully the legs were there and they took me all the way.
“Getting this victory – especially as the team’s leader and not just a GC rider – makes the tour a success already and now anything else is a bonus.”
Greg van Avermaet of BMC retained the yellow jersey after finishing just behind the peloton going into Friday, holding a lead of three seconds over Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas.
Van Avermaet’s teammate Tejay van Garderen and Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step are five and six seconds back respectively.
Defending champion Chris Froome lost eight seconds to his main rivals during a frantic finish to the stage, although that will be viewed as good damage limitation compared to what happened to some of the other contenders.
Tom Dumoulin lost nearly a minute due to a mechanical problem, while AG2R’s Romain Bardet lost 31 seconds during the final climb.
Friday’s Stage 7 leaves Brittany from the town of Fougeres, and heads west towards Chartres along a flat 231km route.
Although the stage is relatively simple, it is the longest in this year’s Tour. The course is also known for its fierce cross winds in the final kilometers, which will force the formation of echelons and cause problems for the riders hoping to contend a bunch sprint finish.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider had the power to hold off Sonny Colbrelli of Bahrain-Merida in a sprint after a steep uphill rise to the finish.
BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet came home in seventh place to retain the yellow jersey.
⏪🔻 Relive this last kilometer who saw the 2nd stage win of @petosagan on this Le Tour! ✌️
⏪🔻 Revivez ce dernière kilomètre qui a vu s’imposer @petosagan pour la 2e fois sur ce Tour 2018 ! ✌️#TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/leMFcXd7SJ
— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 11, 2018
A Team Sky rider snatched away a fan’s banner protesting against the team’s participation in the Tour de France prior to the start of stage five in Lorient.
Local resident Didier Bregardes was standing by the team buses at the start with an A4-sized sign which simply read ‘Sky – Go Home’.
Luke Rowe was identified by onlookers inside the paddock as the Sky rider in question but denied any knowledge of the incident.
Bregardes said: “The rider came over quickly, grabbed my placard and threw it down.”
Bregardes told reporters his banner was intended to protest against the way Team Sky handled the Salbutamol case involving Chris Froome, following the test he returned with high levels of the asthma drug during La Vuelta last year.
That investigation – now closed with Froome cleared of wrongdoing – took place in the public gaze following a leak, and Froome angered fans by choosing to continue to race as it rumbled on, winning the Giro d’Italia in May to hold all three Grand Tour crowns at once.
“When Froome was caught in the act at the Vuelta, the UCI and WADA didn’t react,” Bregardes said. “I’ve nothing against Froome or the riders, but it’s the way the manager of Sky, (Sir Dave) Brailsford, dealt with it.”
Rowe was asked if he took the sign but said: “No, I don’t know what you mean. It wasn’t me.”
The Welshman said the reception the team had received at the race had been positive following the significant booing which greeted Froome at the team presentiation last week.
“I think we got quite a negative reception going to the stage for the team presentation but apart from that it’s been awesome,” he said.
“I’ve been impressed with the French crowds. They’ve been pretty complimentary and positive towards us, which is nice. Of course, for every thousand cheers you might get one negative person, but you just take it in your stride.
“We’ve got pretty broad shoulders – it’s in one ear and out the other.”
Provided by Press Association Sport