Simon Gerrans, Bradley Wiggins and Michael Rogers all finished inside the main group on stage four of Paris-Nice after Thomas Voeckler had claimed a surprise breakaway win.
The French champion had escaped the clutches of the peloton early in the day with Remi Pauriol (FdJ), Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Remy di Gregario (Astana), and stage one winner Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil), and the quintet remained ahead as they pressed over the day's seven classified climbs.
Back in the bunch, Team Sky's sprint options became limited as Greg Henderson dropped off the pace and Geraint Thomas suffered series of problems inside the final hour of action, so the decision was taken to focus instead on the team's main GC contenders.
Up ahead, HTC-Highroad, Rabobank and Liquigas joined forces to try and shut the gap down but their pursuits proved fruitless as Voeckler and co stayed clear of the pack, with the 31-year-old outsprinting Pauriol and De Gendt at the line.
Gerrans, Wiggins and Rogers ended the day 13 seconds back in 61st, 76th and 95th places respectively and they now sit 37 seconds behind new race leader De Gendt, who holds a 10-second advantage over the triumphant Voeckler.
Not to be
After the stage, sports director Sean Yates admitted things hadn't run quite to plan on the day but was heartened to see his all-rounders remain in contention.
He told us: "We had a bit of bad luck with G because the idea going into the stage was for him to attack in the final kilometre if Greg wasn't there.
"G is in great form at the moment but he took a tumble which resulted in us having to change his back wheel. Not long after that he suffered a puncture at about 80km as well and I don't know how he didn't crash to be honest. By the time he got going again for a second time the bunch was too far ahead.
"As for Greg, it was a bloody hard day for him after his efforts in the past few stages and the constantly undulating route sapped all of his energy.
"With those guys out of the picture, Simon, Brad and Michael didn't have anything to work for specifically late on so their mission was to follow the group home and expend the minimum amount of energy possible.
"They did that and were all feeling comfortable at the end there so hopefully that will stand them in good stead for tomorrow.
"That's going to be a crunch day, far harder than today, but in terms of the GC it's all still to play for and if they can hang on tomorrow they'll be in a good position with the time trial coming up on Friday.
"There's no shortage of other GC contenders though with the likes of Tejay Van Garderen, Tony Martin and Alexandre Vinokourov, so it's going to be a tough battle but one which will hopefully provide a good spectacle."