Caleb Ewan won stage 16 of the Tour de France as Geraint Thomas overcame a minor crash to retain second place overall.
Lotto-Soudal’s Ewan took his second stage victory in a sprint finish as he held off Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Elia Viviani and Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen at the end of the 177km stage which started and finished in Nimes.
Defending champion Thomas hit the deck with around 130km of the stage to go on the inside of a right-hand bend but was quickly back in the peloton after dropping back to the Ineos team car for a once over.
“I just took off an old scar so it was new skin bleeding,” Thomas said.
“I just had one hand on the bars and the gears jumped and jammed and I got thrown off my bike on a corner.
“I knew the race wasn’t on so I just got back into the group, it’s just frustrating. It was such a freak thing.”
Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang was not so lucky as his Tour was ended by a crash inside the last 30km, the Dane ultimately climbing into an ambulance and out of a race in which he had sat ninth overall.
They were rare moments of drama until the end of a stage which had been raced in soaring temperatures of around 40 degrees in the south of France.
After the stage, three-time former world champion Peter Sagan complained that it was too hot to race and suggested the Professional Cyclists Association, the CPA, should do more to protect riders.
“If it’s as hot as this in the mountains…” he said, imitating slitting his throat with his hand. “The CPA should do something.
“They should do something to protect us. That’s what we pay them for.”
A five-man breakaway was given little leeway though not reeled in until the final three kilometres as the sprint trains moved up.
Thomas crossed the line with a few bumps and grazes but is still second in the general classification, 95 seconds behind Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Julian Alaphilippe.
Though the Welshman is in pole position should Alaphilippe fall away as expected in the Alps, four riders are bunched within 39 seconds of him, with the Tour as wide open as it has been for many a year going into the final stages.