Fabio Aru (Astana) was left isolated and lost key teammate Jakob Fuglsang during his first day in the yellow jersey, but he was able to defend his race lead with apparent ease as the Tour de France headed out of the Pyrenees.
The short 101-kilometre stage to Foix blew up as expected, but Aru stayed protected on the wheels as Team Sky sent Mikel Landa up the road with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and then Chris Froome tried some late accelerations on the step Mur de Peguere. While the likes of Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) set off in pursuit of Landa and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Aru cruised into Foix, and finished ninth, on Froome's wheel.
Aru still leads the Kenyan-born Briton by six seconds, with Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) third at 25 seconds and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) fourth at 35 seconds. Landa gained 1:46 and so moves up to fifth overall at 1:09.
"From the spectators' point of view it was very exciting, but I stayed calm in spite of the attacks," Aru explained, again tucking into a hefty portion of rice and almonds during his post-stage press conference.
"My teammates have fallen, some are injured, and that's why I was alone. The next few days will be better for them. I know what's important when it comes to getting to the end of each evening.
"Losing Jakob Fuglsang is a big loss but it was too difficult for him to carry on. I just hope he will recover quickly. He was really important for me in the mountains and he has a great deal of experience. We'll miss him."
Aru didn't seem worried by Team Sky's aggressive tactics on the three climbs of the day. Landa came close to being race leader on the road, but Aru sat back and let other riders lead the chase. He also took advantage of Team Sky working to chase several attacks and consequently their own rider on the final descent and valley road to Foix.
"I wasn't nervous, even though I knew that Landa would be trying to get back into the game. I can only compliment him," Aru said, refusing to blink as mind games became as important as every second in the overall classification.
"It's another day down. I came through the stage as calmly as possible. I was waiting for attacks from all my rivals but I concentrated on the riders who were closer to me overall. It was difficult to go after everybody but I think it worked out well.
"Froome is one of my big rivals, as are all the riders in the top four, because we're so close. I thought Froome would try something over the top of the final climb and again on the descent. He did but I was always trying to follow him."
Team Sky's tactics sparked lots of debate, even in the peloton. Landa is now a possible overall contender.
"I know Mikel, it was a bit of a strange attack and stage because he was three minutes back. As a result he had more room for manoeuvre. I don't know how Team Sky will handle Landa now but that's their problem. We'll worry about later in the Tour."
Aru wore the yellow jersey on Bastille Day, as everyone in France celebrated their national unity and national pride. For now, France does not seem to have warmed to the Sardinian, with the L'Equipe newspaper putting their only story on him on page seven.
Aru shrugged off the Gallic snub with his own putdown. "I don't have the time to look at the papers," he said. "There are a lot of fans on the roadside, real fans that love cycling. Even my teammates have noticed that the fans are supporting me here in France."
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