Van Avermaet did more than just defend his leading position. In a stage that saw just one serious climb, the Col d'Aspin in the final 20 kilometres, he anticipated by taking part in an early breakaway.
Cummings surprised by leaving fellow breakaway riders behind on the Aspin - including Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali, Daniel Navarro and Daryl Impey. Van Avermaet concentrated on keeping his own pace as a classic rider, but survived pretty well in the mountains. He didn't lose too much time and managed to keep ahead of the peloton, taking 6th place in the stage and extending his lead in the GC.
Van Avermaet now enjoys a bonus of 6:36 on Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and 6:38 on Spain's Alejandro Valverde. However, tomorrow will be his third and last day in the Yellow, as the second Pyrenees stage contains several arduous climbs. "I will try to enjoy it as much as possible", he said.
Another East-Fleming, Thomas De Gendt, held on to his Polkadot jersey as king of the mountains, for the time being.