Guillaume Martin's acceleration with 500 metres left to go of stage 4 of the Tour de France on Tuesday, and the Frenchman's subsequent opening of his sprint with 200 metres to go on the summit finish at Orcières-Merlette, looked at one point as though it might have been enough to hold off the likes of Jumbo-Visma's Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). But the Cofidis climber was swamped by the two fast-finishing Slovenians in the closing metres, while race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) also came around him, although Martin was able to push back to take third on the line.
It moved the Frenchman up to fifth on the general classification – 13 seconds down on Alaphilippe, who retained his overall lead – and Martin's goals of winning a stage and bettering his 12th place overall from last year's Tour look increasingly achievable after what was the first mountain stage of many at this year's race.
"I couldn't quite pull it off," Martin said on his team's website after the stage, "but I would have regretted it if I hadn't attacked in the last 500 metres. I had to try because I was feeling so good."
Martin has shown excellent form over the past month, finishing third at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge at the start of August, before backing that result up by being able to stay with the world's best climbers at the Tour de l'Ain and the Critérium du Dauphiné, with the 27-year-old finishing third overall at the latter.
"After the coronavirus lockdown, things really changed for me, which I was able to demonstrate at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and I feel that good again here, too," Martin said. "Finishing right up at the front on the first mountain stage at the Tour de France is very encouraging for the rest of the race."
Cofidis general manager Cédric Vasseur added: "Guillaume has been feeling really good for several days now, and he's keen to go on the attack. But it's going to continue to be a case of being patient, as the Tour de France is race of elimination.
"Today gave us confidence, though, and proved that Guillaume has good legs. We saw him racing alongside the best riders in the world. Judging by how far he's come in these past few weeks, we can only be optimistic as the Tour continues," said Vasseur.
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