After a day of hardship in the Vosges that culminated with the brutal ascent to the Planches des Belles Filles, the peloton rode at a pedestrian pace and nobody moved in the outskirts of Belfort when breakaway specialists Yoann Offredo and Stephane Rossetto made a move.
"It's an incredible day. With the yellow jersey, it will be impossible to be in the breakaway", admitted Ciccone.
Giulio Ciccone retained the yellow jersey on a day when he celebrated signing a new two-year deal with Trek-Segafredo, six seconds clear of Deceuninck-Quick Step's Julian Alaphilippe, but Thomas was back in the spotlight after his late surge on the climb invigorated his title defence. He finally put his poor Tour start to bed with the tightest of wins in the longest stage this morning. After my Giro, there were quite some teams interested but for me, it was pretty clear I wanted to stay with Trek-Segafredo, where I feel so at home.
Bookies slashed Thomas from highs of 3/1 (+300) into no bigger than even-money favourite with William Hill and Betway to land back-to-back Tour de France victories, the 33-year-old now generally priced at odds-on for the overall win, some online betting sites offering a mere 4/5 (-125).
"I think maybe everyone is getting a bit carried away with Egan", he said.
Jumbo Visma's Dylan Groenewegen outsprinted the peloton for his first stage win of the 2019 Tour de France. "Over the last days, I focused on today".
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 the first mountain 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. I'm really happy with the team.
"I know that the terrain will suit him well and that six seconds is nothing", said Ciccone, nicknamed Il Gekko for his fast climbing abilities.