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Tour de France: Thomas makes statement but Ciccone takes yellow

Tour de France: Thomas makes statement but Ciccone takes yellow

Thomas remains 45 sec adrift of Alaphilippe in the overall standings. The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider won the dash for the line after he was led out by teammate Julian Alaphilippe, the overall race leader and first Frenchman to don the leader's yellow jersey in five years.

Patrick Bevin of New Zealand has withdrawn from the Tour de France ahead of the sixth stage after breaking two ribs in a crash.

What Thomas describes as "the big day" is a seven mountain slog culminating in a summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles where four-time Tour de France victor Chris Froome enjoyed a breakout win in 2012. "I thought I had got away with it at the time and I didn't have any trouble when I got back into the race, no skin off or anything like that", Bevin said in a statement released by his team.

His latest stage victory was delivered in typically thrilling fashion at the end of a day that had seen the Tour's sprint specialists dropped by the peloton during four short but steep climbs in the Vosges mountains.

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Ciccone finished second on stage six to breakaway companion Dylan Teuns on the brutal slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles - the first summit finish of the race - with the Italian climber taking the overall race lead. 'I did it just before the Tour of Switzerland.

The seconds Thomas has gained may not be massive - two on Thibaut Pinot, seven on Quintana and nine on a group including Jakob Fuglsang, Richie Porte and Bernal - but this was a clear answer to questions over his form. "It's the dream of any person who loves cycling", said the 27-year-old Ciccone, who snatched the jersey thanks to 14 bonus seconds he grabbed at top of the Col de Chevreres and by finishing second in the stage.

"It's all for one and one for all in this team, you need to defend each other and friendship goes a long way in this sport", he said of the help Alaphilippe had given in winning his first Tour de France stage.

Friday's seventh stage is a 230km flat ride from Belfort to Chalons sur Saone.