Edvald Boasson Hagen sprinted to third on stage 13 of the Tour de France following a lead-out from the yellow jersey of Bradley Wiggins.
The Brit had looked to repay his team-mate for all his hard work in the mountains by putting the power down to string out the bunch under the flamme rouge, pulling back a late attack before peeling off ahead of the sprint.
Andre Greipel claimed his third sprint victory of the race, the German (Lotto-Belisol) holding off rival Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) at the finish in Cap d’Agde.
Greipel saw his team control the exposed run for home following a tough ramp at Mont Saint-Clair, the sprinter hauling himself over the top to contest the finish on the coast.
Wiggins stayed safe on the technical run-in and maintained his two minute and five second advantage over team-mate Chris Froome, the pair comfortably fending off a late attack from rival Cadel Evans.
Heading into the final 30 kilometres the Australian’s BMC Racing outfit hit the front and caused the peloton split in half in the face of cross-winds coming off the coast.
Evans then launched a speculative dig on the steep ramps of Mont Saint-Clair, dragging rival Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) with him in a move which was swiftly shut down by Wiggins.
After the stage Team Principal Dave Brailsford explained the tactics on a tricky finish.
“We'd planned this morning that we'd try and take it up on that last drag with 2km to go and come into the final corner on the front,” he said. “Bradley found himself in that position with Edvald on his wheel and I think that was a bit of pay back to give him the opportunity for the stage win. It was nice to see.
“We didn't win the stage but the important thing was to set Eddy up and give him the opportunity. If he'd had the legs then fantastic, but it was a nice gesture and probably a little bit of thanks for all the work Eddy has been doing in the mountains all week.
“We'll get back tonight and reflect on today and sit down and look at tomorrow's stage this evening. Bradley is strong, he feels good, and we're going into the Pyrenees with confidence.”
On Bastille Day it was no surprise to see five French riders present in what eventually amounted to an eight-man break, the move sparked inside the opening kilometre as the race rolled out of Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux.
All the talk heading into the stage centred on the final 30km on tough exposed roads and the steep ramps of the Mont Saint-Clair, all played out with the potential for cross-winds as the race reached the coast.
Team Sky were afforded a break from pace-setting duties on the front of the bunch as Orica-GreenEDGE took up the chase, still targeting their first stage victory of the race.
Their sprinter Matt Goss was not able to make a dent into the green jersey stranglehold of Sagan at the intermediate sprint in Mas-de-Londres, the Slovakian taking the maximum seven remaining points from the bunch ahead of Greipel and the Australian.
With over 60km to go Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) took off, leaving behind his breakaway counterparts on the fifth anniversary of his father’s death, continuing bravely on to the final climb where a surge in the peloton saw him overhauled.
Mark Cavendish saw himself distanced on the climb in a group which crested the third category effort 1:15 off the leaders, before eventually sitting up on the run-in.
The pace dropped in the bunch following the climb, allowing things to come back together, yet providing a springboard for Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Michael Albasini (RadioShack-Nissan) to attack.
The duo worked together to build up an advantage of around 20 seconds but were caught with 3.5km to go, leaving the way clear for a bunch sprint.
At the finish Sports Director Sean Yates was happy to see the team remain vigilant and emerge on the front foot from a day which had the potential to cause problems.
He said: “When you look at the final results the day seemed uneventful but it was still a very hard day. There was a bit of wind and you always had to be at the front and keep your concentration. The boys needed to stay out of trouble and it was a technical finish with a few roundabouts.
“Brad had to be at the front in case it split, which we actually saw heading into the 3km mark. If he’d have punctured there he’d have been able to take the time of the lead group. Froomey was right there on the wheel too so all in all it was a good team performance.
“The boys were superb again and we stayed out of trouble, covered all the attacks and it was nice to see Bradley leading out Edvald at the finish.”