Defending champion Geraint Thomas is up to second in this year's Tour de France general classification after a 12th-place finish on stage 10 that saw a series of riders dropped.
The Welshman, who was fifth overall before Monday’s stage, kept the pace with the leading group as the peloton split into three during the closing kilometres, a move prompted by overall leader Julian Alaphilippe.
Thomas sits 1m 12s behind the Frenchman, while compatriot Adam Yates also profited, moving up to seventh, 1m 47s back.
On a day that seemed pegged as a bunch-sprint finish, an early breakaway had led out for the majority of the flat 217.5km stage.
Troubling the peloton only briefly, the group of six built up a lead of three minutes before they were eventually, inevitably, reeled in.
All was going as expected, many having predicted that the stage would merely be a relaxed precursor to Tuesday’s rest day, points the only thing to be gained as the likes of Peter Sagan eyed green.
But Alaphilippe’s move took the peloton by surprise, splitting it into three and dropping contenders Thibaut Pinot, Jakob Fuglsang, and Rigoberto Uran heading into the finish line in Albi.
Try as they might to rejoin the leaders, Thomas’ Team Ineos spotted an opportunity and duly set the pace, knowing that their man could gain valuable time on a stage where no-one had expected GC movements.
Indeed, the sprinters at the front did duke it out for the line – Wout van Aert claiming a maiden win in his first Tour – while Thomas settled for 12
, breathing down the neck of Alaphilippe in front as the race heads to the mountains after Tuesday’s rest day.