The Irish climber attacked Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) several times on the final climb and although he was forced to hang on in the final kilometre and conceded two seconds to the two pre-race favourites he moved up to third overall, 19 seconds off Froome's race lead with Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) in second at 16 seconds.
Despite his attacking display Martin played down his status as a GC contender. True, he has never made the top-five in a Grand Tour, and the final week of the race will be decided in the Alps, but this is unquestionably Martin's best ever start to a Tour in terms of GC position.
"I don't consider myself a contender. Chris and Nairo are the big favourites for the win, but I wanted to see what I can do, so I attacked a few times," he said.
"In the final kilometer it was a headwind, and because of that it became difficult to try something there."
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Martin, who moved to Andorra last year and described the three stages in the Pyrenees as his 'home roads' in an interview with Cyclingnews on Saturday, added that stage hunting was still his priority and that overall ambitions would be considered on a stage-by-stage basis.
"Overall, I can't say the weather had an impact, but I'm sure it looked cooler on TV. I'm third overall now, but I still want to take it day by day and try to get a stage win. I like riding again in the high mountains. Etixx-QuickStep reminded me how to enjoy what I am doing and I can't say enough times how great this team is. I'm an aggressive rider, that's my nature, and I like to attack and fight for the win even if this means getting dropped, instead of sitting behind and fighting for second."
On the climb to Arcalis the Irishman certainly displayed that nature, moving clear whenever there was a lull in proceedings or when he saw an opportunity.