Yesterday's Stage - A lung busting ascent of the Mûr-de-Bretagne was preceded by a frantic chase for position towards it, and Dan Martin took the honour on the day, sustained an incredible burst for over a kilometre and just holding off Pierre LaTour to take a huge stage win on many levels given that he was second here in 2015 when coming late.
Though the stage was billed as one that could change the yellow jersey holder, it is Van Avermaet who remains in the overall lead, having finished 12th, three seconds behind Martin.
"The fact he wasn't in the sprint was good for me", Sagan, who now leads Gaviria by 33 points, said.
"I'd like to thank Greg (Van Avermaet) because he did me a favour when he went for it, I don't know if he did it on objective but he dropped a lot of people", said Sagan, who has tightened his grip on the points classification's green jersey. "I thought the corner was closer to the finish than it really was".
"I hope so", he said.
A group of five riders broke early on the 181km run from Brest to Mur-de-Bretagne and when the Quick Step team of stage contender Julian Alaphilippe suddenly accelerated on a plain, the peloton split into three with 100km remaining. "I don't know what happened - maybe adrenaline - but I wasn't going to let anyone beat me". "The legs are good now and I am very happy with this win".
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"In terms of his GC rivals, it puts the Dutchman 1'20" behind Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, while Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Chris Froome are now 21 seconds ahead of the 2017 Giro d'Italia champion.
It was Sagan's second stage win of this Tour following stage two into La Roche-sur-Yon on Sunday, and the 10th of his career.
Dumoulin and his Sunweb team compounded the mechanical mishap by getting a 20-second penalty when Dumoulin stayed too close to the team auto while trying to catch the pack, thereby benefiting from its draft that pulled him along.
Van Avermaet, wearing the yellow jersey, then pulled to the front in a bid for the stage win as the finish line approached but peaked too early. Van Avermaet said. "But everyone kind of enjoyed it - the first day we could really relax".
This was the first summit finish of this Tour.
After a somewhat inauspicious start to the season with his new UAE Emirates team, Martin showed a timely return to form last month when he won a stage and finished fourth overall at the week-long Criterium du Dauphine, the final pre-Tour tune-up for most of the pre-race favourites.