Thomas tips Bernal for big summit test in the Tour de France

Geraint Thomas helped a fan get engaged on the Team Ineos Tour de France bus

Geraint Thomas helped a fan get engaged on the Team Ineos Tour de France bus

The first true mountain stage follows on Thursday with a finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles, where Chris Froome, out of this year's Ineos team with injury, won in 2012, his then Sky captain Bradley Wiggins going on to win the Tour.

The final climb is a 7-km effort at an average gradient of 8.7% and Alaphilippe might struggle to keep his yellow jersey as the usual suspects will start their battle for the general classification.

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.

"I feel really good", Martin said. "I was expecting others - Nairo Quintana, Egan, Richie Porte, Adam Yates - to jump up there".

"I was hoping it would be harder all day, but it was a decent day".

Van Aert, riding in his debut Tour since converting from cyclo-cross, closed in to within 14 seconds of the overall lead and maintains his under-25's white jersey as the buzz around him continues to grow.

Thomas's Ineos team mate Egan Bernal of Colombia appeared less fresh and lost nine seconds to the Briton, prolonging the status quo in the team's shared leadership.

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Thomas already lost five seconds to Colombian Bernal when he found himself at the wrong end of a split in the third stage on Monday.

"I've got the green jersey but I haven't got a stage win yet, I'll play it day by day - it's a long way to Paris", said the Slovak star after pulling on the green jersey again.

Alaphilippe, who has worn yellow since his solo win on stage three to Epernay, crossed the line in 10th place, to remain in the overall lead.

He crashed during Stage 4 on Tuesday and continued racing but his CCC team said pain increased during Wednesday's stage to Colmar in eastern France.

It was, however, a bad day for French hope Romain Bardet, who faded on the steep finale and had the final indignity of dropping his chain on the line as he shipped nearly three minutes.

Friday's seventh stage is a 230km flat ride from Belfort to Chalons sur Saone.

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