Poels briefly saw his lead increased from two seconds to three on the provisional GC after a crash in the last 300 metres split the field and he finished slightly ahead of the other GC rivals. "Better to get a bit more time, even if it's only a second," he told the race speaker, only to learn later that all the riders had finally been awarded the same time.
Still, Poels remains ahead of the game rather than behind, and goes into Saturday’s tough stage, complete with a 12-kilometre category 1 climb mid-stage, ahead of his rivals. His good humour was such he even joked about the much smaller total of journalists in the post-stage press conference on Friday compared to the media numbers who showed up for Thursday's summit finish.
"Today was really fast, but we kept things well under control. It was a little bit hectic, particularly in the last corner, but the weather was nice and sunny and I enjoyed it.
"Tomorrow [Friday] will be very different, with a good kick at the end but I'm looking forward to it, I'm in good shape."
Poels recognised that the mid-stage first category ascent "could see something go, particularly from the other teams, but we are ready for it."
Then assuming Poels gets through the stage in one piece, he said Sunday's time trial could see some tough rivals come to the fore. Against the clock, Luis León Sánchez (Astana) is probably the most accomplished of the other contenders.
"Tomorrow [Saturday] will be important. But in a 14-kilometre time trial, two seconds is not really a lot," he reflected. "At the moment, I think the whole top ten can win the GC."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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