Van Avermaet defends yellow as Alaphilippe takes Stage 10

Geraint Thomas

The differences between the main challengers were essentially made in the team time trial in the second stage.

Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), in the green jersey, also got up the road and the breakaway had a very "Classics" feel to it with Philippe Gilbert, third overall, and 2018 La Flèche Wallonne victor Alaphilippe also in the 21-strong group.

Froome is 3:21 behind Van Avermaet after recovering from a punctured tire atop the second of the stage's ascents, finishing with Thomas and most of the top contenders.

Froome punctured a tire on a gravel path atop the second climb up the beyond-category Montee du Plateau des Glieres, the first use of a dirt road by the Tour since 1987.

Yellow jersey van Avermaet (BMC Racing) also got into the breakaway, to not only retain the maillot jaune but extend his overall lead, too.

"We're still here to try and win the race, whatever way that is". That's a great place for us to be in and Geraint is right up there with the other GC guys. "I went down but I'm not injured at all", Froome said.

"But I'm still very much in the game".

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"That means they will have only six riders who can "ride" with other teams attacking, that's going to be a lot more hard than with eight".

Sagan's goal was clear and he led the way through the intermediate sprint to take his green jersey lead into three figures but fell away as the climbing intensified.

Movistar have three options in Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa, but their conservative tactics are likely to do little to open up the race.

With Thomas 59 seconds ahead of teammate Froome and potentially in the yellow jersey by the end of Stage 10, there has been considerable speculation about which of the two riders will be Team Sky's designated leader in the second and third weeks of the Tour.

Team Sky's leadership dilemma will be a fascinating sub plot for Stage 10 on Tuesday when the first mountains of the Tour will be climbed on a 158km stage from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand. He finished the stage an extraordinary fourth, 1min...

The major general classification casualty of the stage was Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) who struggled on the steeper pitches, perhaps the result of a crash on Stage 9, losing two minutes to his rivals.

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