Sky was put on the back foot, when, with 30 kilometres to go, Saxo-Tinkoff split the lead group in the crosswinds that littered the 173-kilometre stage. Froome was left isolated at the front and could only radio through for support as Alberto Contador, Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam slipped clear in a 14-man move.
Sky could only limit their losses as up ahead Saxo-Tinkoff drove the break and eventually clawed back 1:09 on the yellow jersey. There was at least some light for Froome who has eliminated Alejandro Valverde from the overall race after the Movistar man stopped for a wheel change and was unable to return to the peloton after Belkin ramped up the pace.
"There were people who lost time today and some that gained time today. Personally I lost time to Contador, Mollema and Ten Dam in terms of general classification," Froome said at the finish.
"I'm just happy that I still have an advantage of over two minutes keeping in mind that we've got a really difficult weekend coming up with the mountains.
"Teams like Saxo Bank today saw their opportunity in the final 30 kilometres and hats off to them. They rode a really good race today, and for that they've been rewarded with a minute's advantage on GC."
Froome's buffer in the race remains relatively healthy. Mollema is at 2:28 and Contador at 2:45 and with another time trial still to come Froome could regain the time lost today. However, Sky was unable to control the peloton and with Saxo-Tinkoff vowing to take the fight to the British squad, Froome and his team will need to stretch their lead at every opportunity.
The loss of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Vasili Kiryienka leave the team short of numbers, while those that remain at Froome's side have looked vulnerable.
"Eddy is a huge part of the team and we could have really done with him on a stage like today and the same can be said for Kiryienka who we lost a few days ago. They're both really strong engines and the team is definitely weaker without those guys," Froome said.
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