Bradley Wiggins saw his overall lead cut to a second as Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) won the third stage of the Tour de Romandie.
"Cav just wanted to help and be part of it and that shows the mark of him as a champion."
Another impressive display on the front from Team Sky during the 157.6 kilometres stage from La Neuveville to Charmey helped them keep matters under control for Wiggins, who heads into the weekend in pole position to follow up his recent victory at Paris-Nice.
A five-man break comprising Matt Brammeier (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Leigh Howard (GreenEDGE), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Tosh Van der Sande (Belisol-Lotto) had gone clear of the peloton after just 10km and were allowed to open up an advantage of over five minutes.
But, with Howard the best positioned on the general classification at 3:43 back, the gap was pegged at five minutes and Team Sky then set the tempo to reel it in during the final 50km.
It came down steadily and once under three minutes the likes of Lampre and Sánchez's Rabobank squad helped spread the workload, meaning it was all back together inside the final 6km on the last climb of the day.
Richie Porte and then Michael Rogers marshalled Wiggins perfectly on that ascent, neutralising a dangerous late attack from Simon Špilak (Katusha) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana).
As the terrain levelled out that teed it up for Sánchez to out-muscle Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) on the drag to the line for the stage victory and a bonus 10 seconds, with Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) in third.
Wiggins and Rogers finished safely in the front group and were credited with the same time, meaning Sánchez is up from sixth to second on the overall standings, just a second behind the Briton, with Rogers seven seconds back in third.
Afterwards Wiggins was again keen to pay tribute to his team-mates for a job well done, making particular mention of Mark Cavendish who did much of the work on the front.
Wiggins said: "It was pretty straightforward for me; the boys took the load once again and made my job pretty easy really. Cav just wanted to help and be part of it and that shows the mark of him as a champion – sitting there behind, watching the world champion is quite something, he was brilliant and gave his all. He was making a few people hurt that’s for sure.
"There were no real nervous moments and I just wanted to stay safe at the end there, that was the priority and I didn’t have any plans to go for a stage win today."
A tough penultimate stage on Saturday takes the riders 184km from Bulle to Sion before the race is rounded off with a 16.5km time trial around Crans-Montana and Sports Director Sean Yates is expecting more of the same from his men.
He told us: "It was slightly easier for the team compared to yesterday and there was a marked improvement in Cav’s form – he, Geraint [Thomas] and Danny [Pate] rode pretty much until 30k to go when other teams started to take it up.
"When you are leading the race that’s what you have to do. Tomorrow is harder terrain-wise but that should make it a bit more selective and possibly easier to control. I think we’ve got the team to deal with it and our aim remains the same – to deliver Brad in the best possible position for the final TT."