Ireland's Dan Martin was pipped by world champion Peter Sagan and Australian Michael Matthews the third stage of the Tour de France, a 212.5-km ride from Verviers in Belgium, as he took third in an uphill sprint finish.

Sagan of Slovakia (Bora-Hansgrohe) won stage ahead of Matthews (Team Sunweb) was second, and Martin took third place.
           
Briton Geraint Thomas retained the overall leader's yellow jersey. 

Martin was first to admit his surprise of contesting the stage with the elite sprinters in today's stage, posting on his Instagram account: "I expected to post a photo of Spa Francochamps Circuit as my highlight of today. Then this happened. Unexpectedly found my sprint legs. #tdf2017"

Quick-Step Floors team rider Martin finished ninth overall last year and is aiming to capture the yellow jersey exactly 30 years after his uncle Stephen Roche claimed Ireland's only victory in the famous race. He's 15th in the general classification.

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Martin's cousin Nicolas Roche of BMC is 53rd after he finished 49th on today's stage.

Sagan had been favoured to triumph on the short sharp climb at the end of a rolling stage.

BMC's Richie Porte tried an attack with 800 metres left which brought a brief response from his general classification rivals, but when the Australian spotted Sagan on his wheels he eased off.

It is an eighth career stage win for Sagan, who is aiming to win the points leaders' green jersey for a record-equalling sixth time in a row.

Thomas finished eighth, two seconds behind Sagan, to retain yellow, with team-mate Chris Froome immediately behind in ninth.

A six-man breakaway went up the road early on the stage, which took the riders south out of Belgium - via a lap of the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One circuit - through Luxembourg and into France for the first time this year.

The peloton kept the break in check, not allowing their lead to grow much more than two minutes, and, after it dipped under 60 seconds with a little under 60km remaining, Lotto-Soudal's Thomas De Gendt was part of a three-man group that bridged over.

That sparked a series of attacks out of the break, but, when Direct-Energie's Lillian Calmejane was the last to be swallowed up with 10km to go, the battle was on at the front of the peloton.