Steve Cummings put in a determined performance for Team Sky on the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice, but it was Xavier Tondo who held on for a breakaway victory.
Cummings had begun the 220km stage from Peynier to Tourrettes-sur-Loup feeling fresh and was one of 23 riders who raced clear of the peloton after around 35km.
The 28-year-old took some big turns at the front of that group as they quickly built themselves a two-minute lead on the rest of the pack.
After five riders had been dropped that advantage remained relatively constant until the final 40km when Tondo, Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Cyril Gautier (Bbox-Bouygues) made their moves.
Tondo quickly shook of his two accomplices and despite the best efforts of the chasing pack, the Spaniard was able to hang on by a matter of metres at the finish line.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sprinted home in second place ahead of Peter Sagan (Liquigas), and that six-second time bonus ensured the Spaniard closed the gap on overall leader Alberto Contador to 14 seconds.
Simon Gerrans led Team Sky home in 19th position to ensure he stayed 15th in the general classification. Cummings ended the day in 45th.
After the race, sports director Sean Yates was full of praise for Cummings's efforts on what had proved to be a long and testing day.
He told us: "It was good for Steve to get in that break. They went clear at around 30km and stayed ahead for around 180km. It was always going to be kept under control because it had some great GC riders in it like Cunego, Tondo, Sylvain Chavanel and Levi Leipheimer.
"We knew it would eventually come back to some sort of order towards the end, and that's what happened.
"Steve being in there though was great for us though, and it was also pleasing to see him back in the bunch late on and able to get some support to Simon Gerrans, who was our sole representative in that front group at the line."
Yates had been concerned for Dario Cioni when he was involved in a four-man crash with around 45km to go, but thankfully the Italian was able to dust himself down and make it to the finish line.
"Someone went down in front of Dario and the bike flew up towards him," Yates added. "He has a few cuts and bruises but he'll be fine to continue.
"We've had some bad luck with injuries this week. Serge Pauwels had to go home with a bad knee after his crash on Friday and Kjell Carlström has also been struggling, but he is surviving and he'll be OK to finish the race."
Simon Gerrans' target at the start of the week was to claim a top 10 finish in the general classification and Yates is hopeful a good performance on Sunday could see him achieve that goal.
"Simon finished quite comfortably and it was nice to see his GC position stay the same. He wants to get into that top 10 and he's only 24 seconds off doing that now.
"He was riding well but didn't really take his chance on that last climb to try and drop some of the riders ahead of him in the GC. When you look at the level of competition that's here though, he's done fantastic to get where he has done so far.
"There's still time yet for him to make the top 10 and we'll just have to see what happens."