After a far from successful season with new team UAE Emirates and an unfruitful but equally impressive assault yesterday, the Irishman attacked three kilometres from the finish on the Valmorel climb.
“It’s been a difficult start of the season for myself and the team, but it’s just fantastic that it worked out today," Martin said. "Personally, since I won a stage at the Tour de France [in 2013], I’ve probably been second and third about ten times, so it’s great to win here just before the Tour because that’s my goal.
"I surprised myself today though. I didn’t expect to be that strong. In the finale, I hesitated a bit but I knew that my GC position enabled me to attack. I was at the limit. I waited for the other guys to slow down a little bit and I accelerated. Then I gave everything. I’ve been scared to lose towards the end but to see the last curve has been a big relief.”
Of the main GC contenders, only Geraint Thomas (Sky) was able to respond to Martin who held a 15-second gap, 1.8km from the top. But the Welshman almost made it, finishing just four seconds behind Martin.
“In the final climb, we had everything under control," Thomas said. "[Adam] Yatesy and Orica [Mitchelton-Scott] put the hammer down a bit. It was hard going but we stuck well together.
"I stayed quite steady on that last corner. I didn’t want to repeat the prologue. It’s been a really good day!
"These four days in the mountains are the hardest four days I would have raced I think in a one-week stage race. It’s a super hard climbing stage race, even harder on the weekend now. I’ll enjoy tomorrow, or I’ll try to enjoy it in the jersey and defend it but it’s super hard. It’s a big test. Anything can happen. So far so good.”
Mitchelton-Scott turned the screws on the final climb, offering a refreshing alternative to a Sky piloted peloton. Their efforts swallowed up the last rider of the day's break, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) with 4.5km to the finish, and earned Adam Yates a third place on today's stage. The Brit also improved his position on GC by one place to sixth overall.
Earlier, Edet pulled clear with Dario Cataldo (Astana), Edward Ravasi (UAE Team Emirates), Carlos Verona (Mitchelton-Scott), Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors), Matteo Fabbro (Katusha), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2R), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal), establishing a one minute and 15 second lead by kilometre 10.
Yesterday's hero Cataldo stayed to contest the KOM on the first two categorised climbs, claiming the maximum points on the Cote de Naysord but lost out to Edet on the Col des Mouilles. Once his job was done, the Italian found his way back to the bunch.
After the start of the final climb, just Ravasi, Edet and De Plus remained of the break. Edet unhooked with eight kilometres to go and while De Plus bridged back across, he gave up the fight six kilometres from the finish.
The peloton faces a tough 110km day in the saddle on stage six with two hors categorie climbs - the first coming soon after the flag drop - and a category one finish in La Rosière.
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