John Degenkolb sprinted to second place in the flat 178-kilometer stage 10, his highest placing so far, while Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) easily certified the title as the top sprinter in this year's race with his fourth win.
"Super hectic, super crazy," Degenkolb said about the last kilometers. "I was always focusing, together with Koen (de Kort), to stay on Lotto Soudal's train because they were strong and organized. They did a great job.
"With 2kms to go I lost good position, and I had to come from very far. Luckily Marcel (Kittel) was also this far back, and out of the last corner I was in his wheel - I think we were position 25 or something. I was just trying to stay on his wheel, trying to hang on," laughed Degenkolb.
It's been a tough go for John Degenkolb since crashing at the end of stage four, and today's result helped ease the pain, and bring a much-needed morale boost to the team.
"I still have a lot of pain from the crash," said Degenkolb. "On the bike I am the most comfortable, but I still cannot really lift my arm, and during the race I cannot really get bidons or musettes from the side of the road. My teammates have to take it for me because I still cannot put a lot of pressure on the shoulder as there's still a lot of pain."
It was a relatively uneventful stage until the two-man breakaway, out front for most of the day, was caught at seven kilometers to go and the battle for positioning kicked into high gear.
With Koen de Kort's assistance, Degenkolb managed to maintain a good position, but just when everything seemed to be playing out perfectly, it unraveled in the last two kilometers.
I had to do a full sprint to just stay in his slipstream.
"I tried to stay in a good position, but it was super hectic, super nervous," reiterated Degenkolb. "When I was going into the last kilometer, I thought actually that the sprint is already over, but then a small miracle happened that Marcel overtook me on the right side and I could get on his wheel. I had to do a full sprint to just stay in his slipstream, but that gave me the opportunity to get second in the end."
Kittel simply left everyone in his dust, an amazing feat after coming from so far back.
"Today he was unbeatable, that's for sure," answered Degenkolb when asked if Kittel can be beat. "I don't know how to beat him – he is super talented and at the moment just very, very good. Right now, I don't see how anyone can beat him man against man. But this is the Tour, and everything can happen."
Every sprint takes on a life of its own. Talent is needed, but so is luck. Degenkolb admitted today he had a whole heap of good fortune to finish second.
"In the end I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go with Marcel at one kilometer to go. I think if he would not have been in this bad position, then I would not have been able to come to the front anymore. He's just by far the strongest at the moment.
"I am happy with second; it is my best place so far in this Tour. After all that has happened, this is pretty good, and we still have some more opportunities. It's a good boost of confidence; I am optimistic, my shape is good, and I will fight again tomorrow and the days after. Like I said, the Tour is the Tour, and everything can still happen."
Alberto Contador was led safely over the finish by his teammates, welcoming this tranquil, flat stage to help nurse his wounds from his crashes on stage nine.
"In the end it was a quiet day and in that sense could not come at a better time," said Contador. "In the final part of the stage, we went behind, trying not to take any risks. My body hurts after two crashes, a little everywhere. It's normal; we do not have a suit like motorcyclists, it's our own skin that protects us. But at least with the rain, in this case the bruises are smaller.
"We'll see about tomorrow. With a bit of luck, if it's a day like today I can recover more. I think I still have the legs to do a good race. What happens for the rest of the race does not depend on my head, it is a matter of my body, but luckily [the crash] was not as bad as in 2014, or even last year. If I recover, I'll ride in my way, which is really what I like."
"This situation perhaps has destroyed my GC chances, but on the other hand, it opens a range of possibilities to do beautiful things. I don't know when, maybe more in the last week."