Tour de France: Geraint Thomas up to second as Julian Alaphilippe splits peloton
Along with overall race leader Julian Alaphilippe, Thomas benefited from a late split in the peloton that caught many race rivals by surprise.
The 33-year-old had started out from Saint-Flour to Albi – the final stage before the first rest day – in fifth.
Belgian Wout van Aert edged out Elia Viviani in a thrilling sprint finish.
Speaking to ITV 4, Thomas, who is hoping to be the first rider since Miguel Indurain in 1992 to successfully defend his title as a first-time Tour winner, said: “I had a really good day in the end.
“We had a little go earlier but it was not the right conditions. We were always attentive and ready for anything.
“From our point of view we had everyone bar two guys [in the front group] so we were fully committed. There were plenty of guys turning and you could tell behind that they had gone full out [to catch up].
“They ran out of gas and the elastic snapped. You would never expect it today. But a positional error from them and they lose a minute and a half.”
The stage had passed without incident until around 40km from the end when Rigoberto Uran’s EF Education First team attempted to take advantage of the crosswinds.
However, they and a clutch of general classification (GC) contenders, including Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, were caught out as Alaphilippe initiated a devastating counter.
Setting an unrelenting pace, Alaphilippe again lit up the race before Ineos took over to press home Thomas and his co-leader Egan Bernal’s advantage.
Britain’s Adam Yates, who moved up to eighth in the GC, and Movistar’s Colombian leader Nairo Quintana also finished in the leading group, one minute and 40 seconds in front of a chasing pack that also included Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte.
Bernal’s performance saw him earn the white jersey for the best young rider in the race, the pervious wearer, Italy’s Giulio Ciccone, being another to drop back overall.
The riders have a rest day on Tuesday before the race recommences on Wednesday when the Tour travels 167km from Albi to Toulouse.