While Durango’s Sepp Kuss continued to find his legs in the mountains of France, Ireland’s Dan Martin posted his first victory of the season after attacking three kilometers from the finish of the mountainous Stage 5 on the Critérium du Dauphiné on Friday.
Martin accelerated on the grueling beyond-category ascent to the ski resort of Valmorel and resisted a comeback from Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas.
Thomas, who rides for Team Sky, finished four seconds off the pace and claimed the overall lead of the warmup race for the Tour de France.
It was Martin’s first victory since signing for UAE Team Emirates.
Thomas leads the general classification ahead of Damiano Caruso, who lags 69 seconds behind with two stages left.
Overnight leader Gianni Moscon, also riding for Sky, dropped to third place.
Kuss, riding for Team LottoNL-Jumbo, placed 28th on Friday’s stage, one day after he placed 37th on the first mountainous stage of the eight-day race. He climbed 11 spots to 32nd in the general classification, and he remained in 12th in the best young rider standings.
The 23-year-old from Durango completed Friday’s 81-mile stage in 3 hours, 24 minutes, 26 seconds, which was 3:07 back of Martin. Kuss was the first American to the finish Friday. Joseph Rosskopf, an American riding for BMC Racing Team, was 52nd, 8:09 back of Martin. Brent Bookwalter, also of BMC Racing Team, was 107th and 15:27 back of Martin.
Bookwalter’s tough day put Kuss as the top American in the general classification. Kuss’ time of 17:27:51 is 10:58 off of Thomas’ lead. Ian Boswell, an American riding for Team Katusha Alpecin, is 41st, 16:35 back, and Bookwalter faded to 47th, 18:10 back.
Two mountainous stages remain. Saturday’s is a shorter, punchier climb of 68 miles. Sunday’s final stage is 84½ miles to the finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.
Kuss’ elite climbing ability should help him climb further up the rankings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.