Bradley Wiggins retained his overall lead at the Criterium du Dauphine after he and Team Sky withstood an attack from Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on the fifth stage.
Arthur Vichot (FDJ-Big Mat) soloed to victory after going clear late on in the 186.5 kilometres route from Saint-Trivier-sur-Moigans to Rumilly, with fellow breakaway companions Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in second and Dimitri Fofonov (Astana) in third, 26 seconds back.
And 33 seconds later the main bunch rolled over the line, with Wiggins alongside his closest challenger Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - but that didn't fully reflect what had happened an hour or so earlier.
For it was on the descent of the hors category Grand Colombier climb that Evans and his BMC Racing team jumped off the front of the peloton and threatened the advantage Wiggins had worked so hard to build up when winning Thursday's time trial.
Evans, who started the day 1:44 back in fifth, and team-mates George Hincapie, Michael Schär and Tejay Van Garderen managed to take a minute out of the main pack with 51km remaining.
However that sparked a swift and decisive response from Team Sky, with Edvald Boasson Hagen dropping back from policing the Evans group to help drive the front of the peloton alongside Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Michael Rogers.
And as the gap closed rapidly it was finished off in style by Wiggins who surged off the front and bridged across to Evans and co.
There was still work to be done as others - including ninth-placed Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) - tried to make their way to the 10-man breakaway which had finally gone clear after a frenetic opening 60km featuring numerous attacks and an average speed of 48.3km/h for the first hour.
Big weekend ahead
Coming into the closing stages relative calm had descended again and Team Sky, who now lead the team classification by over five minutes, have two more testing stages to negotiate over the weekend.
They start with a 167.5km test on Saturday from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine which contains three major ascents including the Col de Joux-Plane, one of the steepest climbs in the Alps.
Going into that defending champion Wiggins is 38 seconds ahead of Martin on the general classification, 1:20 in front of team-mate Rogers and 1:44 to the good over Evans, who moved up a place to fourth after Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) lost time on the stage.
After the stage Wiggins told us: "We did what we had to do and once again we’ve defended the jersey.
"There was a bit of bluffing going on from some of the local guys as we approached the top of the Colombier, which caught us out a bit, but that was about it. They warned us that it was a dangerous descent but then went full gas and caused the bunch to split.
"Cadel and three of his guys managed to stay in that group and it was a bit of an error on our part. We rallied though and the team did an amazing job to close things down.
"Once we’d got them in sight I was feeling good so I finished the job off to ease some of the pressure on the rest of the boys. There were no problems in the end and it was a straightforward finish."