Third when the Tour last visited the climb dubbed "The Breton Alpe d'Huez" in 2015, UAE Team Emirates rider Martin made his move early, dancing clear of the field ahead of the kilometre-to-go banner before holding off a strong challenge from Frenchman Pierre Latour (Ag2R-La Mondiale) to claim only the second Tour stage win of his career and the first since 2013.
"There's no reason I can't look at it [the Mûr de Bretagne], even though I'm contending for GC [the general classification]", Martin said earlier this week.
While this was bad news for the rider himself, his team and France's hopes of a first win since 1985, it was a boon to Bardet's rivals, as a Tour de France victor generally relies on the support of a full team. I stayed in his wheel and I thought that was the moment, and I went with 200 meters to go.
"I was afraid of the crosswinds and maybe it was adrenaline but the legs were there and it all worked out".
Stage eight on Saturday (Sunday NZ time) covers a slightly more challenging terrain over 181km from Dreux to Amiens but again should set up well for sprinters. It's incredible, I'm really grateful for myself and for my team.
Froome, who knows a thing or two about leadership battles in this race after his uncomfortable relationship with Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour, said it was good to have Thomas near the top of the standings.
"It was a boring stage, no wind, no stress just boring, I was talking to everybody", he said.
Netherlands' Dylan Groenewegen, left, crosses the finish line ahead of Colombia's Fernando Gaviria, center, to win the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 231 kilometers (143.5 miles) with start in Fougeres and finish in Chartres, France, France, Friday, July 13, 2018.
Dumoulin, the time trial world champion and 2017 Giro d'Italia victor, started the stage 44 seconds ahead of Froome, but finished just behind him.
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.
"Yellow jersey wearer Van Avermaet described the climax as 'an awesome finish". "It's never good to lose time", said Bardet, who has finished on the podium in the past two Tours.
"I tried to win the stage but it was pretty complicated", Van Avermaet said.
This was the first summit finish of this Tour.