Team Sky insists Geraint Thomas is "in a good place" after the GC battle at the Tour de Suisse began in earnest on Wednesday as stage 5 took riders into the mountains and up to the first summit finish of the race.
Thomas lost eight seconds to Warren Barguil - second on the day just behind Darwin Atapuma - and three to Tejay Van Garderen and Wilco Kelderman as the group of overall contenders splintered on the final push for the line at Cari, though he did move up into third overall.
What was most encouraging for the Welshman, who was second overall last year, was the way in which Sky imposed their authority on proceedings. Chris Froome might have taken the bulk of the Tour de France candidates with him to the Critérium du Dauphiné last week, but that didn't stop the British squad's 'second string' gathering en masse at the front of another WorldTour peloton.
With Ian Boswell and David Lopez in the large breakaway, Sky left it until the descent of the Gotthard pass - the second of the day's climbs - to take it up on the approach to the final climb of the day through Christian Knees. Michal Golas led onto the 12km hors-catégorie ascent climb, with Leopold Konig, who has struggled with injury this season, then taking it up.
Vasil Kiryienka, who will surely head to the Tour next month, rode in characteristically metronomic fashion, his big gear and still shoulders in stark contrast to the bobbing figure of Boswell, who was the next in line as the Sky train controlled for the majority of the ascent.
"It was a really good effort from all the guys today. It was full on from the start and we wanted to have a small group and control the day, but it got too hard and too crazy, so Bos and [Lopez] jumped in the break," said Team Sky directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch.
"That made it easier and Astana didn't have anybody in the break so they had to chase. That made it easier and we then took it on again on the last climb with Christian and Michal."
Once the domestiques' work was done, and the GC contenders started trading blows towards the top of the climb, Thomas wasn't overly convincing or assertive. Instead of using his teammates' work as a launchpad for attack, he managed his efforts and slowly but surely responded to digs from Van Garderen, Barguil and others.
He reached the final kilometre towards the front of the fragmenting group of favourites but lacked a final kick as new race leader Pierre Latour kicked for the line along with Van Garderen.
"I think there might have been a little too much stop-start for G on the last section," said Rasch.
"But he's in a good place at the moment. The win won't be easy, but it's definitely doable."
The Tour de Suisse continues on Thursday with stage 6, another foray into the mountains with a summit finish.
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