Julien Alaphilippe has become the first home stage victor in this year's tour, after a long-range attack in the mountains of the Haute Savoie led to a solo win in Le Grand-Bornand.
Both Kittel and Cavendish have struggled to get results in this Tour de France - Kittel's best was a third place on the opening stage, while Cavendish cracked the top 10 once on stage 8. "It's a bonus for me to be up there, and hopefully I can be there for as long as possible". That will be followed by Stage 12's ascent of the legendary Alpe d'Huez.
The 158.5 km stage from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornard featured three category one climbs, including two in the final 30 km. The overall standings are sure to change. "To wear the yellow jersey is a massive honour and to wear it three years in a row is pretty nice.I rode really well".
Greg Van Avermaet, who had worn the yellow jersey since his BMC squad won the team time trial in Stage 3, lost contact midway through the stage and finished far behind. He is now 20 minutes behind Thomas.
"It's just how it is", Thomas said when asked about saying Froome remains the leader. "I didn't expect it at all".
Yet Thomas, a former track cycling Olympic champion like 2012 Tour victor Bradley Wiggins, has yet to prove he can handle the pressure of a grand tour.
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The major question now may concern the dynamics between Thomas and Froome within Sky.
With third-placed Tom Dumoulin 1:44 off the pace, Sky have two cards to play in the Tour's tactical battle.
"Whatever happens now is bonus", Thomas said. Four-time champion Froome, however, is the more experienced rider, having already won all three grand tours.
"I knew there was a good chance". For me it's an unknown.
Thomas's attack laid to rest any question of whether he would be riding for Chris Froome in this year's race, although the defending champion was clearly stronger than other overall hopefuls in the group including Bahrain-Merida's Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale and Movistar's Nairo Quintana.