Quick-Step Floors' Dan Martin made the most of the punchy, Classics-like finish of stage 3 at the Tour de France on Monday, finishing third on the stage ahead of the other general classification contenders and moving from 52nd to 15th overall.
Martin finished on the same time as stage winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), runner-up Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and fourth-placed Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), while the rest of the main peloton came in two seconds later. Combined with his four-second time bonus for the podium result, Martin catapulted past all but Chris Froome (Team Sky) among the GC contenders.
"That's what I tried today and I'm really happy with how it went," Martin said after the stage. "I found the first part of the climb not so hard, but things changed once Richie attacked and lined out the peloton."
"Richie," of course, is Richie Porte of BMC Racing. Porte launched an aggressive attack at the bottom of the Côte de Religieuses, the final climb of the day, and looked for a moment to be leaving his fellow competitors in the dust. It was not be, however, as Sagan and crew eventually pulled even with and then passed Porte.
Martin was in that group, waiting patiently during the early fireworks and then choosing his own moment.
"The sprint was very long, and I knew it was very important to bide your time," he said. "So I sat on Matthews' wheel and launched my sprint when I sensed everybody was in the red."
The gambit worked, and although Martin wasn't able to seize the stage win and the 10-second time bonus for the winner, he gave his general classification hopes a serious boost as the race approaches the first day in the real mountains during stage 5 on Wednesday.
"I never thought I would sprint against those guys, so to get this result at the end of such a hard day makes me very happy and confident," Martin said. "A big shout-out to my teammates, who did everything to bring me in the best position for this finish."
Martin is now 43 seconds behind race leader Geraint Thomas, while Thomas' teammate and defending Tour champion Froome is second overall, only 12 second back. The next-best pre-race-favourite GC men are Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) at 45 seconds and Porte at 47. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is 48 seconds back in 21st place.
Tuesday's 207km stage 4 from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel looks like another straightforward opportunity for the sprinters, but Martin and the other riders with GC ambitions will face a tough test on Wednesday when the stage finishes on the first-category climb of Planche des Belles Filles.
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