Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) smashed the Tour de France 2019 stage 13 time trial to take stage victory and extend his overall lead in the general classification.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) finished 14 seconds down to take second place over the 27.2km course, but fell to 1-26 down in the GC.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took third place on the day after setting a stellar benchmark time that could only be beaten by the top two on GC.
Geraint Thomas was able to go fastest through second two of the three intermediate checkpoints on the course, but consistently trailed Alaphilippe as the Frenchman came through the points quicker.
Thomas came to the finish in a superb time to beat De Gendt by 21 seconds, with Alaphilippe the last to take the sharp climb to the final few hundred metres.
Incredibly, between the final checkpoint before the finish, Alaphilippe was able to extend his advantage over Thomas to 14 seconds, despite the Welshman going faster as he went on.
Among the other GC contenders, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) and Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) will all be pleased with their performances as they moved up places in the top-10 overall.
Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) all lost big chunks of time to drop down the overall.
How it happened
The 27.2km time trial in Pau on stage 13 of the Tour de France would likely prove pivotal in the final destination of the yellow jersey, though many of the pure climbers would be focusing on not losing too much time ahead of the mountain stages.
The course, far from flat, would catch the eye of many riders eyeing a prestigious stage win as the race hits the Pyrenees.
The early benchmark of 35-52 by Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) stood for some time, with the Danish champion a potential candidate for the stage victory despite being just the sixth rider off of the start ramp.
A number of the other early riders, including four-time world time trial champion Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), rode within themselves in their efforts, saving themselves for domestique roles in the coming stages.
Chad Haga (Sunweb) and Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) were the riders to go closest to Asgreen at 30 and 40 seconds respectively.
Former US champion Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) missed the leading time by just nine seconds, with more and more excellent time triallists now out on course.
Belgian champion Wout van Aert began his effort superbly and looked to be set to take the best time, but suffered a horrendous crash after colliding with a barrier on a right turn with 1.2km to go and injuring his right leg. The 24-year-old had no choice but to abandon the Tour.
Thomas De Gendt, not far behind Van Aert, had gone through the intermediate time checks fastest and came storming down the final straight to smash the best time by 16 seconds with 35-36.
No-one was really able to come too close to De Gendt until the GC contenders began to take to the course.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) put in a strong performance to finish just nine seconds behind De Gendt, but Rigoberto Urán went even better as he finished just 0.28 seconds behind the leading time.
It was only when the top three on GC hit the time checks that things began to look worrying for De Gendt in his hopes of taking a second stage win of the race.
Steven Kruijswijk started well by going fastest through the checkpoints, but struggled to hold the pace and eventually finished on the same time as Porte.
Geraint Thomas then looked to be setting a phenomenal pace, but the yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe was not letting up and bettered him throughout the course, eventually finishing 14 seconds up to reinforce his position at the top of the overall standings.
The Tour de France continues on stage 14 of the race, a tough mountain stage that finished atop the iconic Col du Tourmalet.
Tour de France 2019, stage 13: Pau to Pau (27.2km)
1. Julian Alaphlippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, in 35-00
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos, at 14s
3. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 36s
4. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First, at same time
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 45s
6. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 49s
8. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 52s
9. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 58s
10. Joey Rosskopf (USA) CCC Team, at 1-01
General classification after stage 13
1. Julian Alaphlippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, in 53-01-09
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos, at 1-26
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-12
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 2-44
5. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos, at 2-52
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-04
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 3-22
8. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First, at 3-54
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 3-55
10. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
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Follow on Twitter: @richwindy
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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