Geraint Thomas took back control of the Tour de France
on Thursday, with a surge of power taking him clear of his main rivals on the backbreaking finish to stage six in the Vosges mountains.
Thomas, on the back foot after being left behind by team-mate and Ineos co-leader Egan Bernal at the finish of stage three in Epernay, showed that he is still the boss.
He overtook race leader Julian Alaphilippe in the final few metres of the steep gravel climb to La Planche des Belles Filles to claim fourth as German rider Dylan Teuns won the stage.
'I felt pretty good,' he said. 'I thought the steep climbs weren't my cup of tea. I was expecting others — Nairo Quintana, Egan, Richie Porte, Adam Yates — would jump up there. It was a decent day in the end. It is one of those climbs where you have to be patient.
'When Alaphilippe went clear at 800 metres to go, quite early, I had the confidence to let him go and ride my own tempo and drive it all the way to the line.'
Better still for the defending champion was the damage done to dangerous rivals such as Romain Bardet, Porte and Vincenzo Nibali, all of whom lost more time to the Welshman.
Although Italian rider Giulio Ciccone is leading the Tour overall after taking the yellow jersey from Alaphilippe, Thomas is best placed of the main contenders for victory in Paris on July 28, and leads Bernal by four seconds.
Fellow Briton Adam Yates lost 14 seconds to Thomas in the final moments of the stage but moved up to 14th place overall.
'Everything went OK,' Yates said. 'On the main paved section of the last climb I felt pretty good, but once we got on the gravel section, even though it was short, it's a bit different from normal and added an extra complexity to the day.'