Edvald Boasson Hagen and Geraint Thomas were both in contention again on the sixth stage of the Tour de France as HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish romped to his second successive victory.
The Team Sky duo were steered into position by the Juan Antonio Flecha as the bunch hurtled into Gueugnon and ended the day in eighth and 11th positions respectively after Cavendish had outsprinted Tyler Farrar (Garmin) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) at the finish line.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) was three seconds adrift of the frontrunners and saw his overall advantage over Thomas cut to 20 seconds as a result. Thomas' performance also ensured he retained the white jersey for best young rider.
The thunderstorms which greeted the riders as they woke had passed by the time they made it onto the start line in Montargis and a three-man break formed within minutes of the action commencing.
Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel) worked together productively and had built up a lead of almost eight minutes by the time the peloton decided enough was enough.
As the trio ascended the final climb of the day their lead had been cut back to under a minute and it was then that Dimitri Champion (AG2R) and Anthony Charteau (Bbox) attacked to successfully bridge the gap.
By that time though the original trio were wavering after their efforts on the longest stage of the Tour and all five riders were caught as the passed under the 10km banner.
Yet again the sprinters' teams jostled for position as they pressed along the winding route into the destination town, and with Garmin seemingly on top, Cavendish latched onto their lead-out train before kicking ahead of his rivals for the win.
Thomas was only one of 14 riders to be awarded the same time as Cavendish and many pundits now believe he has an opportunity to take over the race lead with a successful stage on Saturday.
The 24-year-old played down his yellow jersey chances though, insisting he would ride in support of Bradley Wiggins, who remains in 14th position overall.
"It's quite strange to be in this position, but it's been a nice first week," he said.
"Obviously if the opportunity arose then I'd definitely try and grab it but my priority will always be to try and help Brad Wiggins as much as possible."