Thomas gains time, Porte 11th on stage six
Defending champion Geraint Thomas gained time on his rivals in a brutal finish in the sixth stage of the Tour de France as several top guns cracked in the lung-busting ascent to La Planche des Belles Filles on Thursday.
Belgian Dylan Teuns prevailed after a long breakaway at the end of the 160.5km ride from Mulhouse ahead of Italian Giulio Ciccone, who claimed the overall leader's yellow jersey to follow his first place in the mountains classification at the Giro d'Italia.
Australia's Richie Porte, riding for Trek-Segafredo, finished 11th while compatriot Jack Haig was 46th, one place off Briton's Simon Yates, both riding for Australian team Mitchelton-Scott.
But all eyes were on the overall contenders in the 7km final climb at an average gradient of 8.7 per cent that featured a final gravelled section where standing up on the pedals – a usual position for the pure climbers – was almost impossible.
Briton Thomas took full advantage of the terrain to produce brutal acceleration and take fourth place, 1:44 behind Teuns, who snatched his maiden stage win on a grand tour.
France's Thibaut Pinot, who had been tagged as the pre-stage favourite on an ascent situated 15km from his home town, reacted swiftly in the last 200 metres on asphalt to limit the damage to a two-second loss.
Thomas's Ineos teammate Egan Bernal of Colombia appeared less fresh and lost nine seconds to the Briton, prolonging the status quo in the team's shared leadership.
Overall, Ciccone leads France's Julian Alaphilippe, who wore the yellow jersey in the morning, by six seconds after the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider had to settle for sixth place.
Among the top contenders, Thomas is fifth, 49 seconds behind, and leads sixth-placed Bernal by four seconds and seventh-placed Pinot by nine.
Twice champion Vincenzo Nibali, who was waiting for that stage to assess his form after finishing second overall in a demanding Giro d'Italia in May, lost 51 seconds to Thomas, whom he now trails by 1:07 overall.
The day also signalled the end of Romain Bardet's hopes after the Frenchman, twice a podium finisher on the Tour, lost over a minute and now lags more than two minutes behind Thomas.
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