Edvald Boasson Hagen today claimed Team Sky's first Tour de France stage success in torrential rain in Normandy.
Another punishing day in the saddle saw the riders take on the 2011 Tour's longest stage, the 226.5-kilometres from Dinan to Lisieux.
And Norwegian Boasson Hagen accelerated off the wheel of team-mate Geraint Thomas to triumph ahead of HTC-Highroad's Matt Goss and Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), who retained the race leader's yellow jersey.
After a punishing day's racing in yesterday's fifth stage, won by Mark Cavendish, the peloton faced a further test as the Tour wound into Normandy from Brittany.
A five-man break - featuring Anthony Roux (FDJ), Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD), Johnny Hoogerland and Lieuwe Westra (both Vacansoleil) - began after 5km and established a lead of more than 11 minutes at one point.
The deficit was reduced by the sprinters' teams as the intermediate sprint approached and Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) led the peloton over the line in sixth place behind the breakaway.
Out in front, Westra attacked again and was followed by Malori as those previously alongside them in the escape fell back into the pack.
The peloton hunted down the duo, but the relentless pace on undulating terrain was too much for some and Westra ended his bid with 18km left as Malori was left to plough along alone up front with a slender advantage.
As the rain fell, making the roads slick for the closing stages, Roux attacked, but he was unsuccessful in his attempt to bridge the gap to Malori.
BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Lotto, as in previous days, led the bunch into the final stages and Malori was finally caught with 2.6km and a steep ascent through Lisieux to come.
HTC-Highroad pushed to the front, with Goss on the third wheel and Alberto Contador attempted to follow Jelle Vanendert's move.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) overtook the Belgian with 2km to go, but the peloton remained within striking distance as the duo forged forward to the brown of the hill.
Garmin-Cervelo's David Millar led the hunt for the duo, with Cadel Evans, Thomas and Boasson Hagen also to the fore.
Thomas led out Boasson Hagen, who powered to the line, holding off the charge of Goss, Hushovd and the remainder of the peloton for the biggest win of his career so far.