Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde all tried their hand on the Plateau de Beille, but every one of those moves was annulled as Froome and Thomas asserted their authority in a rain-soaked finale.
Froome even had an attack of his own before leading Thomas and six other riders home in 10th position at the end of the demanding 195km stage. The result ensured Froome defended his 2min 52sec advantage over Tejay van Garderen (BMC) on the general classification, with Thomas 4min 3sec back in fifth position.
The stage win went to Joaquim Rodriguez after the Katusha rider had jumped from the remnants of a 22-man breakaway on the final climb of the day before taking his second success with a 1min 12sec cushion over Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
As the Spaniard savoured his victory, Froome and Thomas sprinted home 6min 47sec behind to round off another resilient team display.
Immediately after the stage, Thomas relived the moment he chased down one of the world’s greatest climbers and explained how he was putting Froome’s position before his own in another powerful display of climbing.
“When Quintana attacked I thought ‘Oh no!’ because Richie had just dropped back, but fortunately I had the legs to respond and slowly ride back up to him,” said Thomas.
“I was buzzing after I’d chased him down and that was really good for my confidence. I rode better after that and was able to stick to consistent pace.” Thomas’ result has people wondering if he, too, is a future contender for the top step in Paris.
“I’m happy to still be up there on GC but I wasn’t even thinking about that today, it’s all about riding for Froomey, and we’ve both had a good day,” he said.
Porte worked hard during the early stages of the climb before dropping off the pace. He rolled over the line in 29th position; still the best placed Australian of the stage despite pacing himself to defend Froome's overall lead rather than aiming for a high position for himself.
Froome heaped praise on his team-mates, who controlled things from beginning to end. He also described the logic behind his attack in the last 4km.
"I was lucky to have Richie and Geraint with me when the attacks started and it made it a lot easier to control things with my team-mates in that position. I owe them both a beer tonight,” he said.
“Geraint’s been really strong,” he added. “We saw how good he was during that first week, and he’s been fantastic in the Pyrenees. He could definitely still be up there at the end. He’s been doing a great job for me and could get a podium or a top five at the same time. The other contenders will definitely have to look out for him as well.
“As for my attack, I made it to see who would respond, and who had the legs at that point. I was hoping one or two of the guys might drop off, but as soon as I saw the reaction from them I decided to keep it conservative and get through to the finish as best I could.”
The four significant climbs of the day were made harder by a drastic change in the weather conditions, which went from nearly 40 degrees (Celsius) to a soggy 16 degrees by the end of the stage.
“It was a really tough day out there, especially with the weather changing,” said Froome, relieved to put another tough stage behind him. “It went from hot to cold and some guys fared better with that than others. I prefer the hot weather, but you have to be able to adapt in bike racing and I’m happy to have got through it.
“There’s still a lot of racing to come but I’m pleased with where my legs are at the moment and I’m looking forward to a flat today tomorrow.”