NORTH Wales cycling figures have applauded Geraint Thomas' display in the toughest stage of the opening week in this year's Tour de France.

Defending champion Thomas put in an emphatic performance on the steep slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles, crossing the line ahead of all his General Classification rivals on stage six.

He admitted he was cautious about the tough final gradients, yet pushed clear of his rivals in the final metres, overhauling the yellow jersey of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninick-Quick-Step) and finishing fourth behind the day’s breakaway.

Team INEOS colleague Egan Bernal was also present in the elite lead group, finishing just nine seconds back on Thomas to ensure the team retain two riders in the overall battle.

"What a stage!" said Rhyl Cycling Club's Jon Harland.

"Thomas showed his hand on the final ramp of the La Planche des Belles Filles climb, which had some riders walking across the line with their bikes.

"After just five days of the three-week Tour, he is looking strong for a second consecutive win in Paris.

"But (there's) a long way to go yet."

Speaking on Friday, Rhos-on-Sea Cycling Club's John Clayton said: "(It was) quite a tame first few days, which enabled France to enjoy the Yellow Jersey and various commentators to question Geraint Thomas.

"Yesterday's stage which concluded on gravel with a 24 per cent climb separated the true potential leaders.

"Geraint sat down in his saddle looking amazingly calm and capable, whilst all around him (cyclists) got out of their saddles, weaving and distraught.

"The cream is rising to the top subtly."

Thomas moved up two places to fifth overall, 49 seconds back on new race leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).

Speaking to the Team INEOS website, Thomas said: “I felt pretty good.

"I thought it would be a more solid day - it’s never easy, but it was steady for the first three climbs.

“When Movistar went and Valverde was riding it was solid, I was feeling pretty good - I was just unsure as on those steep climbs I was expecting Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana and obviously Egan to jump up there, so I was hoping for it to be hard all day before that. But it was a good day in the end.

“It’s one of those climbs where you really have to be patient and when Alaphilippe went pretty early, at like 800m to go, I just had to have the confidence to let him go and ride my own tempo and try and ride it all the way to the line.

"I was starting to blow though as it was solid, overall it was a decent day.”