Irishman Dan Martin took his second career Tour de France stage win on Thursday, triumphing on the tough hill finish on the Mur-de-Bretagne. Greg Van Avermaet finished just a few seconds behind the UAE-Emirates ace to keep the yellow jersey. Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet had late mechanicals that caused them to lose time.

The Course

There would be plenty of action in the final 19-km of the stage. Leading off was the first passage of the Mur-de-Bretagne (2-km of 6.7 percent) followed by the uncategorized climb to the bonus sprint of the day (1.1-km of 6.1 percent). The final haul up the Mur-de-Bretagne was shorter by 100-metres but steeper on average at 7 percent.

The Breakaway and Roglic’s Struggle

Having lost his polka dot jersey Wednesday to Toms Skujiņš of Trek, New Zealand’s Dion Smith was keen to light a fire on Stage 6, getting in the breakaway for the second time of the 105th edition. All four wildcard teams were represented in the escape; its members were four fifths French.

There was a nice moment at 11-km, as Oliver Le Gac of Groupama-FDJ scooted ahead of the rest of the peloton to say hello to his hometown of Plouvien.

The escape hit the Cat. 3 Cote de Ploudiry with a 6:00 gap. The Kiwi took two points at its crest. If he could also top the Cat. 4 Cote de Roc’h Trévézel in the lead, he would be tied on KOM points with Skujiņš and Sylvain Chavanel. Smith did so.

With 100-km remaining, the peloton turned into a crosswind. Quick Step put the hammer down and the field split into three groups, with Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Martin, Jakob Fuglsang and Steven Kruijswijk in the second group and Primoz Roglic in the third. The race came back together, but it took Roglic’s platoon a long time to close the gap.

Soon after he returned to the pack, Roglic crashed on a traffic island.

The intermediate sprint prompted attacks in the breakaway, but Quick Step’s earlier move had diminished the gap enough that a catch would be guaranteed. Alexander Kristoff was the fastest out of the peloton.

The Finale

The pace was high and the fight for position intense as the peloton approached the first passage of the Mur. The breakaway wouldn’t make it to the top with Sky, Movistar and Katusha pulling the field. Skujiņš flared out and took the maximum KOM points, padding his polka jersey lead.

Jack Bauer (New Zealand/Mitchelton-Scott) attacked to take the three-seconds at the time bonus sprint.

How would the headwind at the finish affect the final climb? Bora-Hansgrohe and BMC whipped along the peloton. Tom Dumoulin suffered a untimely mechanical with 5.5-km to go.

Bauer was lassoed with 4-km remaining. Then Romain Bardet had to change bikes but had better luck at latching back on than Dumoulin.

Sky, Dimension Data and Bora mobbed the front. A move from Richie Porte sparked Dan Martin into an attack. Geraint Thomas couldn’t close the gap. Pierre Latour lit out after Martin but couldn’t quite nab the Irishman. Valverde placed third.

Bardet shipped 31-seconds to his rivals, while Dumoulin lost 53 before being docked another 20 for excessive drafting of a team car. Thomas moved up to second in GC, while his teammate Chris Froome lost a handful of seconds to Nibali, Valverde, Roglic, Quintana, Porte, Landa and Fuglsang.

On Friday, it’s back on for the sprinters in Chartres, Eure-et-Loir as the race heads east. Who will get his hat trick, Gaviria or Sagan?

2018 Tour de France Stage 6
1) Dan Martin (Ireland/UAE-Emirates) 4:13:53
2) Pierre Latour (France/AG2R) +0:01
3) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +0:03

2018 Tour de France GC

1) Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium/BMC) 22:35:46
2) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Sky) +0:03
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA/BMC) +0:05

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