Britain’s defending champion Geraint Thomas took time out of all his rivals for the general classification with a show of strength at the end of stage six of the 2019 Tour de France.
Thomas launched a late attack in the closing stages of a brutal climb to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles.
Dylan Teuns won the first mountain stage of this year’s race, beating Italy’s Giulio Ciccone by 11 seconds.
But Ciccone took the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe by six seconds.
Thomas came home fourth, passing Alaphilippe before the line after the Frenchman had burst away in an attempt to hold on to his race lead.
The Welshman finished nine seconds ahead of Ineos team-mate and co-leader Egan Bernal, and now sits in fifth place overall – four seconds ahead of the Colombian and 49 seconds behind Ciccone.
There have been question marks over Thomas’s condition for the Tour since he crashed out of last month’s Tour de Suisse, but up a steep incline and on a dusty gravel track he produced a burst of acceleration in the final kilometre that none of the other major contenders could match.
“It is one of those climbs where you really have to be patient,” Thomas told ITV4 afterwards.
“When Alaphilippe went, pretty early with 800m to go or something like that, I just had the confidence to let him go, ride my own tempo, then really try to drive it all the way to the line from about 350m out.
“I was starting to blow though – it was solid – but it was a pretty decent day in the end.”
It was a dramatic ending to a testing day in the Vosges mountains that saw the riders negotiate seven tough climbs.
Teuns and Ciccone were part of a 14-man breakaway that had escaped near the start of the 160.5km route but along with Xandro Meurisse, who finished more than a minute back in third, they were the only riders to remain clear by the end.
Ciccone, who won the King of the Mountains category at this year’s Giro Italia, was favourite to triumph on the last climb, up a newly laid road to the ski station at the summit of La Planche, but he could not stay on the wheel of the Belgian.
Teuns, 27, rode away and celebrated a maiden Tour stage win in his first year at the race.
At 230km, Friday’s stage seven is the longest of this year’s Tour, with a flat finish into Chalon-sur-Saone.
In his BBC Sport Tour de France stage-by-stage guide Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates is backing Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen to take the victory.
Stage six results
1. Dylan Teuns (Bel/Bahrain-Merida) 4hrs 29mins 03secs
2. Giulio Ciccone (Ita/Trek-Segafredo) +11
3. Xandro Meurisse (Bel/Wanty-Gobert Cycling) +1min 5secs
4. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Ineos) 1min 44secs
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +1min 46secs
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) Same time
7. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +1min 51secs
8. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger/Bora-Hansgrohe) Same time
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana Pro Team) +1min 53secs
10. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar Team) Same time
General classification after stage six
1. Giulio Ciccone (Ita/Trek-Segafredo) 23hrs 14mins 55secs
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +6secs
3. Dylan Teuns (Bel/Bahrain-Merida) +32secs
4. George Bennett (NZ/Jumbo-Visma) +47secs
5. Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos) +49secs
6. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos) +53secs
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +58secs
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 04secs
9. Michael Woods (Can/EF Education First) +1min 13secs
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First) +1min 15secs
14. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min 24secs