Third Tour de France stage win for Sagan as Thomas retains lead

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Later, it was also revealed that Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman was sent a mystery package on the eve of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, which was destined for Wiggins.

The targeting of Froome has reached a point that Bahrain-Merida manager Brent Copeland said he had told his riders not to follow him because it was too unsafe, having seen his star man Vincenzo Nibali crash out of the Tour after tangling with a fan on the Alpe d'Huez.

The peloton allowed the breakaway to have their moment in the spotlight on the route from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende, and Fraile took full advantage, pipping Julian Alaphilippe and Jasper Stuyven to claim his first Tour de France success. The team was booed at the Tour's opening presentation.

After overzealous fans marred Thomas' win on Thursday atop the Alpe d'Huez, the otherwise complete calm of Friday's leg was briefly disturbed by a man on the roadside who tossed a smoke bomb into the center of the peloton as it passed by with 16 kilometers left.

"We have a plan for the first mountain stage", Thomas said.

"Winning a Tour de France stage is the best for a professional rider", said Fraile, who already had a Giro d'Italia stage win to his name. "In cycling, you can support a rider without booing the others".

Prudhomme added: "We want the Tour public to be the same as they always have been".

Sagan won stages two and six of this Tour, and now has 11 Tour stage wins to his name. Froome initially held back, marking counter-moves from AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet and UAE Team Emirates' Dan Martin before leaving them both behind and catching Dumoulin.

Froome, who was cleared of a suspected doping offence in the week leading up to the start of this year's race, has for years been targeted by the French crowd and on Saturday had some form of liquid thrown at him as he neared the finish.

The time in yellow has placed extra requirements on Thomas during the race. The Welshman looks forward to the rest day before facing the deciding week of the race. The fanfare and interviews often take several hours to complete.

That prompted QuickStep Floors, with numbers in hand, to up the pace in the chasing group but Stuyven responded by going solo at the front with more than 30km to race.

Asked about Copeland's comments, Froome said: "It's a pretty sad situation if that is correct".

"It makes the day a little longer. Reading comments on social media from people saying: 'Since justice wasn't served, we'll serve it from the side of the road.' That's basically an outright threat", he said.