Thomas wins stage and yellow jersey on Tour de France

Thomas wins stage and yellow jersey on Tour de France

Sky are quite unpopular in France, where their domination - winning five of the last six Tours - is reminiscent to that of disgraced Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal team in the early 2000s.

With 7km remaining for Kruijswijk, his lead had been halved to two minutes and he was left with slim hopes when Thomas and Froome countered attempts by Dumoulin and Bardet in the closing few kilometres to shake them off.

Up next on Stage 11 is a 108.5-kilometre (67-mile) leg from Albertville to the top of the La Rosiere summit on Wednesday. I just followed. Dumoulin, Bardet and Froomey were attacking.

The main problem for Team Sky is that Geraint Thomas has never finished better than 15th in a Grand Tour, as he often suffers a bad day.

"I give myself zero chance for tomorrow", Van Avermaet said.

"Both riders were spat at, Froome was shoved, shorts were dropped in their direction", reports Jeremy Whittle in The Guardian, "yet it was Vincenzo Nibali who ended up prone on the tarmac, after tangling with spectators, as the leaders were blinded by smoke from flares".

Pressed on whether he can win the Tour, Thomas replied: 'Racing over three weeks is a bit of an unknown for me.

Froome is looking to make history as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour win, a fourth successive Grand Tour victory and becoming the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. "It was just a case of following (teammate) Egan (Bernal)", added Thomas.

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Suker and Niko Kovac, as well as Niko's brother Robert, another former Croatia star, have origins there too. Dalic was there in France 20 years ago, but not as a player. "We represent the whole country", he said.

There has been no shortage of drama in the first week of the Tour de France with sprint battles between young and old, struggles along the cobbles to Roubaix, Chris Froome yet to show his sharpness and Peter Sagan shining in the green jersey once again after two stage wins.

Nibali, victor of the Tour in 2014, was later forced to abandon the race with a fractured vertebra.

Dumoulin, the time trial world champion, is Sky's closest challenger. "Taking a stage in the Tour de France has always been a dream and turning it into reality feels extraordinary", commented Alaphilippe.

"Sky have a strong hold on the race, everyone is asphyxiated", said AG2R-La Mondiale team manager Vincent Lavenu.

Indeed, ahead of three days of climbing, Froome's biggest rival could be Thomas, who is second overall at only 43secs behind Van Avermaet. Though the sight of Team Sky massed on the front of the peloton most of the day was not unexpected, the way in which he attacked with yellow on the line certainly was.

'I knew the onus would be on the other guys to chase, but the guy who stands out as a threat to us now is Tom Dumoulin. Jakob Fuglsang of Astana was next at 3:12.

Overall leader Greg Van Avermaet was part of the breakaway group for large parts of the stage and finished just under two minutes behind Alaphilippe to retain the yellow jersey.

"If Geraint stays where he is and takes the yellow jersey they've got a real problem on their hands".