Ireland’s Dan Martin won the Tour de France’s sixth stage, while overall contenders Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin lost time in the final miles due to mechanical issues on Thursday.
Martin, who placed sixth in the 2017 Tour, held off Frenchman Pierre Latour for the stage victory by one second, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in third.
Belgian Greg Van Avermaet extended his overall race lead from two to three seconds, with Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas overtaking American Tejay van Garderen for second place.
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Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, is expected to cede the yellow jersey by the end of next week, when the three-week tour tackles cobblestones and the Alps.
He hopes BMC teammate Richie Porte will take it over. Porte finished with 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali on Thursday, three seconds behind Martin.
Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome lost five seconds to Porte and Nibali. Rigoberto Uran, runner-up last year, lost eight seconds to Porte and Nibali but remains the best-placed of the contenders to top the podium in Paris on July 29.
Dumoulin, the time trial world champion and 2017 Giro d’Italia winner, was slowed by a tire puncture at the foot of the final ascent and lost 53 seconds. He had entered the stage in seventh place and finished it 15th and one second behind Froome.
Bardet was left 1:45 back in 23rd overall after a spoke on his bike broke.
“Then I had to chase and that effort was fatal. It’s never good to lose time,” said Bardet, who has finished on the podium in the past two Tours. “There are a lot of twists on the Tour and this time luck was not on our side.”
The Tour de France continues Friday with stage seven, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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