Geraint Thomas may have spent the first rest day of the Tour de France some 72 seconds off the yellow jersey, but he and Team Ineos admitted things could not have gone much better for them in the opening 10 days.

The crosswind chaos of Monday’s stage 10 saw Thomas power his way into second place on the general classification behind Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, with the Welshman’s young team-mate Egan Bernal just four seconds behind in third.

After a number of rivals – most notably Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot – shipped 100 seconds on the stage to Albi, Thomas and Bernal became the best placed of the main contenders to be wearing yellow in Paris.

“With myself and Egan second and third, it’s been a great 10 days,” the defending champion said.

“Obviously it would be better if we were a couple of seconds behind Alaphilippe rather than a minute, but other than that it’s great.”

It is not a dissimilar situation to the first rest day of last year, when Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet held yellow with a 43-second cushion over Thomas in second.

Van Avermaet was never expected to hold yellow for long in the mountains, duly handing it over when Thomas won stage 11 to La Rosiere, and many predict Alaphilippe will do something similar when the race hits the Pyrenees at the weekend.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe remains in yellow, but is not expected to be a general classification contender
France’s Julian Alaphilippe remains in yellow, but is not expected to be a general classification contender (Christophe Ena/AP).

Though he has thrilled the French crowds with his attacking style, the 27-year-old is not targeting the general classification over the three weeks and cannot be expected to keep this up for much longer.

“I won’t say we were happy, but we didn’t mind him gaining a few seconds after the first week,” Thomas said of the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider.

“He’s never ridden for GC before over three weeks, but obviously we’ve got to be more and more aware of him the further the race goes on.

“There’s some big days in the mountains now and the time trial. By the second rest day we’ll know a lot more. If he’s increased his lead it will be more of a concern, but we’ll see how it goes.”

All of which leaves Thomas in an enviable position, certainly to those that were on the wrong side of Monday’s splits.

Chief amongst those was Pinot, who in the first week established himself in front of Romain Bardet as the great hope for a first French winner of the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

His late attack alongside Alaphilippe on stage eight had put him second overall, 19 seconds ahead of Thomas.

It all came undone two days later as the crosswinds sent him tumbling to 11th, but Pinot’s team manager Marc Madiot sounded a defiant tone as the media descended on their rest day press conference.

Thibaut Pinot is France's best hope of victory, but has plenty of time to make up
Thibaut Pinot is seen as France’s best hope of victory, but has plenty of time to make up (Christophe Ena/AP).

“I see there are lots of people here today,” he said. “I get the feeling that you’re here for a burial but we’re still alive. We’re still in the match.”

Maybe so, but Ineos hold all the cards. The talk surrounding Bernal faded after Thomas rode away from him on La Planche des Belles Filles, but having the 22-year-old Colombian in third place gives Ineos plenty of tactical options.

Thomas and Bernal remain co-leaders of Ineos here, but it seems clear which way the team is leaning.

“We know that Geraint has won the Tour before, so he’s capable (of doing it again),” team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said.

“If you have won it once you’re more capable of doing it again…given the experience and self-belief you get from doing it the first time.

“For Egan, he hasn’t done it the first time, but he’s still got all the credentials and everything we see suggests he should be able to do it.

“But until he does we won’t really know.”