Martin wins Tour de France sixth stage, Van Avermaet keeps yellow

Toms Skujins

"My legs were there all the time, I already wanted to have a go yesterday but it wasn't as steep as today".

Alejandro Valverde finished third for Movistar ahead of Quick-Step Floors' Julian Alaphilippe, who missed out on bonus seconds.

Bardet now trails Froome by 43 seconds while Team Sky will also be able to play the Geraint Thomas card as the Welshman, who won the Criterium du Dauphine last month, sits in third place overall 59 seconds ahead of the four-times Tour champion.

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Van Avermaet is the first former Olympic road race champion to wear the yellow jersey after winning gold since 1903 and has set a target to retain the jersey until the peloton reaches Roubaix on stage nine, which will be the next stage that could provide a general classification shake up.

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.

Froome is 14th, 1:05 behind Van Avermaet.

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There was a blow for general classification contenders Romain Bardet of France and The Netherlands' Tom Dumoulin, with the duo suffering mechanicals in the closing kilometres.

Froome seemed unconcerned after the finish of stage six, which lived up to its billing as a key week-one marker for the overall hopes.

"A spoke broke and I had to swap bikes with Tony (Gallopin)".

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, last year's Giro champion, suffered a puncture with five kilometres to go and ended the day 53 seconds behind the victor. "Then I had to chase and that effort was fatal", AG2R-La Mondiale rider Bardet told reporters. "There are a lot of twists on the Tour and this time luck was not on our side".

Martin was one of several team leaders along with former Tour victor Vincenzo Nibali and two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana who were caught off-guard by an attack by Quick-Step 100 kilometers into the stage during a straightaway that was exposed to crosswinds.

A group of approximately 40 riders, including Froome, opened up a gap of more than a minute, but Martin and the rest hustled back. While that Alp ascent awaiting on Stage 12 rises to 1,850 meters, the Mur de Bretagne tops out at 293 meters. "It's not going to be easy to win here but we keep trying".

The peloton rode over a 231-kilometre route between Fougeres and Chartres that was completely flat, making it a good day for the fast men to shine.

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