Critérium du Dauphiné: Remarkable Martin shows his strength on Mont du Chat
On one of France's toughest climbs, the 30-year-old Quick-Step Floors rider dropped many of the pre-race favourites and made another big jump in the GC.
As the Tour de France is approaching, Dan Martin continues to showcase his good form and gain more and more confidence for his season's main objective. After a quiet start to the Critérium du Dauphiné, when all the Irishman had to do was to safely overcome the sprint stages and limit the damages in the race's sole individual time trial, Dan was presented with a first opportunity to move to the fore on Friday afternoon and didn't disappoint, putting to display his climbing skills and trademark consistency.
Stage 6, taking the peloton from Parc des Oiseaux to Villars-les-Dombes (147.5 kilometers), was all about the Mont du Chat, a viciously steep ascent averaging 10.3% over 8.7 kilometers which wasn't only a tough hurdle in the way of the yellow jersey contenders, but also an important test prior to next month's Tour de France, when it's set to feature on the course of stage 9, as the last of the day's seven classified climbs.
On Mont du Chat, the six-man escape which at one point had more than eight minutes over the peloton succumbed, leaving the door open to the GC guys, who were hunting not only the stage win, but also the bonus seconds. It came as no surprise that almost everyone still left in the elite group decided to have a go and test the waters, including Dan Martin, who followed a Romain Bardet (AG2R) attack before taking the front of the newly-formed group and setting the pace.
Two kilometers away from the top of the ascent, four men broke clear and stayed in the lead also on the technical and dangerous descent which soon followed, despite its complexity and the several attacks they orchestrated, which were all nullified before the final kilometers. Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) was the first to launch the sprint, but in the end he had to be content with third on the stage, behind Richie Porte (BMC), the new yellow jersey, and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who took the honours.
Dan Martin, third at the previous Dauphiné, climbed superbly on Mont du Chat, dropping Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), among others, and on the descent continued to power on, being the motor that drove to the line a small group which also included Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Bardet. Sixth in Villars-les-Dombes, the Irishman was one of the day's winner, as he moved again in the general classification, where he is currently seventh, after starting the stage in 18th place.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele