Time to relax on longest leg of Tour

Time to relax on longest leg of Tour

Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) led a select chasing pack over the line for third place in the 181km stage from Brest, three seconds back, with BMC's Van Avermaet finishing safely in the mix to retain his lead in the general classification.

Froome, who knows a thing or two about leadership battles in this race after his uncomfortable relationship with Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour, said it was good to have Thomas near the top of the standings.

The only exception is the man they call "G", who sits three seconds off Van Avermaet in yellow and, as the victor of the traditional pre-Tour warm-up race the Criterium du Dauphine, has every right to be considered a serious contender himself.

Ireland's Dan Martin celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France.

"I was a bit nervous because of the headwind, I didn't think it was going to happen", Martin, 31, said.

Martin, whose other career Tour stage win came in Bagneres-de-Bigorre in 2013, had finished second on this climb when it featured in the 2015 Tour and timed his attack to perfection, launching off the wheel after the Australian had made his own move and riding clear.

"I'm happy with that, " Sagan said.

"I tried to win the stage but it was pretty complicated", Van Avermaet said.

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The Dutchman of LottoNL-Jumbo defeated both Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan easily, as he finally showed what he is capable of in this race. I felt good in the fourth stage but the good timing was missing. "Third is okay, if I win what do I get except an extra point or two?"

Tom Dumoulin suffered another blow having already lost time following a late mechanical on stage six of the 2018 Tour de France, after being slapped with a 20-second time penalty for drafting.

The 231km stage from Fougeres to Chartres saw multiple breakaway attempts, but on a flat route with occasional crosswinds, none seemed likely to stick - not least because the majority were undertaken by lone riders.

Laurent Pichon, another French rider with Fortuneo-Samsic, then also got away alone for a spell.

While this was bad news for the rider himself, his team and France's hopes of a first win since 1985, it was a boon to Bardet's rivals, as a Tour de France victor generally relies on the support of a full team.

It's set up for a sprint, but watch out as there's a kick at the end - the finale is a 600 metres kick-up at 4% before the last 200 metres flatten out.

The overall favourites should be tested again in the cobblestoned Stage 9 on Sunday to Roubaix, before heading down to the Alps next week.

This was the first summit finish of this Tour.