Nice, July 11: Geraint Thomas showed the tenacity that could bring him a second Tour de France title when he produced a gritty climb at the end of a gruelling sixth stage.
The Welshman finished the day in fourth place to sit fifth in the general classification, but the manner of his determined dart up a demanding climb sent a message to all the pretenders to his crown.
A dramatic 160.5-kilometre stage from Mulhouse to the ski station finish at La Planche des Belles Filles was won by Belgian Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), who pulled ahead of Italian Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) as the finish line beckoned.
Ciccone took over the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe, moving six seconds in front of the Frenchman overall, with Teuns now sitting third and New Zealand's George Bennett in fourth.
Thomas sits 49 seconds behind Ciccone in the GC standings, with Team INEOS team-mate Egan Bernal four seconds further back in sixth.
After the final haul up a 24 per cent climb, Thomas, last year's champion, said: "It was a decent day in the end. It's one of those climbs where you have to be patient. I had to drive it all the way to the line from 350 (metres). I was starting to blow though."
He said he had felt "pretty good" throughout and had put in "steady" early climbs, explaining: "I was just unsure... with the steep climbs not really my cup of tea."
Belgium's Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) retained the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey, while Teuns could celebrate a first Tour stage win.
He had been part of a 14-rider breakaway group who held a seven-minute lead after 30 kilometres.
Gradually the group began to fracture, and with 10km remaining the gap to the peloton was down to four minutes, and down it kept coming.
Ciccone had victory in his sights but 27-year-old Teuns left him standing with a powerful surge to the line.
This was the fourth time a Tour stage has finished at La Planche des Belles Filles, and on the three previous occasions the rider in yellow at its conclusion has gone on to win the Tour - Bradley Wiggins in 2012, Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 and Chris Froome in 2017.
Ciccone has plenty to live up to in that respect.
Teuns, speaking on ITV4, said of his first place: "It's unbelievable. To win already this week is incredible.
"At the final I gave everything. I knew Ciccone was the main guy in the final and I'm so happy I finished it off.
"When I saw my mum, my dad and my girlfriend at the end when I came down, it was pretty emotional."