Wout Van Aert won an explosive stage seven of the Tour de France to Lavaur as Adam Yates hung on to the yellow jersey amid powerful crosswinds.
Jumbo-Visma's Van Aert collected his second stage win of the Tour as the winds ripped through the peloton in the final hour of racing, with Tadej Pogacar, Mikel Landa, Richie Porte and Richard Carapaz among the overall contenders to lose 80 seconds in the splits.
The 168km stage was raced at a ferocious pace as Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe’s team put the hammer down as soon as they left Millau, dropping the sprinters to enable the former world champion to seize the points leader’s green jersey back from Irishman Sam Bennett.
And there was no let-up as the reduced peloton was split in three late on, though Yates remained attentive near the front of the peloton throughout and got himself into the front group as the race ripped apart as they left Castres.
Van Aert's assignment was to look after team-mates Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin, with Roglic only three seconds off Yates in second place, but when he found himself near the front in the final metres he was able to overhaul Edvald Boasson Hagen and follow up his stage-five victory.
"I’m really proud of it," Van Aert said. "It was straight from the gun really hard. It was a very impressive stage from Bora-Hansgrohe, they were flat out from the first kilometre and made sure a lot of the sprinters were dropped.
"It was always hectic because everyone feared the crosswinds. At the end we saw it was worth it to put a lot of energy into the positioning. I was with Primoz the whole day in the front so it was a good day for the team.
"A lot of the GC favourites lost time and I could finish it off as well."
The Ineos Grenadiers did much of the work to split the group in the winds, with defending Tour champion Egan Bernal well placed, but Carapaz dropped out of the front group after suffering an ill-timed puncture.
Sagan once again took control of the points classification he has won in seven of the past eight Tours, with Bora’s work to split the group allowing him to pick up 17 points in the intermediate sprint won by Matteo Trentin.
Bennett finished a tough day empty handed, part of a group that finished more than 10 minutes down on the road.
That means that Sagan, who began the day trailing Bennett by 12 points in the fight for green, now leads the category by nine.
Nicolas Roche is the leading Irish rider in general classification, 27:53 off the lead in 54th place, while Dan Martin is 72nd, nearly 14 minutes behind his compatriot.