Martin was one of the very strongest on the lumpy 216-kilometre stage that finished at Le Lorian and on the categorised climbs that led to the finish, he imposed himself as others around him faded.
He was fifth across the line, 5:07 down on Van Avermaet and though that deficit appears like a lot on the face of it, the Irishman and the other big favourites won’t yet be so concerned with so many big mountain days to come.
“The first mountain stage is a little bit of a shock to everybody, and yesterday it was even more difficult because of the scorching heat, which made the road melt in some places,” said Martin afterwards.
“To be sincere, it felt like you were riding through glue all day long. It was a difficult start to the Tour de France and nobody had the legs to attack today, because people are already tired after just a couple of days and 18 hours in the saddle.
“The team rode well together and I am confident for the mountain stages which will come later in the week.”
Van Avermaet is unlikely to be there when the race hits the high mountains of the Pyrenees over the weekend so he took his opportunity to go in a break yesterday and target the stage.
And he did so by very impressively soloing to victory by dropping his breakaway companions and because he avoided losing any real time on the opening stages he now leads the race by a whopping 5:11 from Martin’s team-mate Julian Alaphilippe.
“It feels great. The yellow jersey, I was never dreaming about this,” said the winner.
“It’s a big dream come true. I was happy with the stage win last year, now I’ve got a stage win and the yellow jersey. I think it’s once in a lifetime for me and I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Two big names to lose time were 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who fell out of contention after crossing the line over 13 minutes down while Saturday’s opening stage crash victim Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) conceded 17 seconds to the Martin group and he is now over a minute down on many of his rivals.
Another man to have suffered in a fall on stage one, Ireland’s Sam Bennett of Bora-Argon 18, finished in 193rd place in a group some 28:34 down.
Today’s stage takes the riders 190 kilometres to Montauban and there are three categorised climbs, though nothing likely to dislodge any of those contending for the overall title.