The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans' heads with dreams of a first homegrown victor since 1985.
For close to 27km of this testing course, only five or six seconds had separated Thomas and the race leader, but that injection of power from the diminutive Alaphilippe propelled him to a 14-second winning margin and an extension of his advantage over the Welshman.
A serious day of climbing beckons.
"He would have fewer bandages on him had he learned how to race when he was 15 years old as opposed to 25 years old", Vaughters says. A performance that invited the sort of questions that have had to be asked here in Pau in the past.
"I feel for QuickStep team, they have one of the best riders but they don't have the team to defend".
Van Aert never made it to the finish after clipping a barrier and sustaining a nasty, race-ending leg injury, but Alaphilippe was significantly quicker through the three check points the Belgian time trial champion did pass and was faster than everyone else, too. 'But I am not here to answer to suspicions. If it creates suspicion, I know being first always makes people talk. I ride my bike the way I like, everything else makes me laugh'.
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"I just wanted to keep the jersey, but to win the stage, on this form, is just totally wonderful", said Alaphilippe, the 27-year-old former soldier who is sending France wild with belief they can win a first Tour since 1985.
Kruijsiwjk is now only 12 seconds in arrears to Thomas after a big performance from his Jumbo-Visma team, while Emmanuel Buchman and Pinot are 70 seconds behind the Team Ineos man in fifth and sixth respectively.
Thomas, who sealed his first Tour victory a year ago with third place in the final time trial, beat Kruijswijk's target time at second intermediate check at the top of the Cote d'Esquillot by 13 seconds.
"I was quite weak", Thomas said.
Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has been happy to dismiss Alaphilippe's overall chances, but Thomas is beginning to take him seriously. "He's obviously going incredibly well, so he's certainly the favorite and the one to watch at the minute". If he can keep that up, he'll win.
The last two riders to roll down the ramp in Pau, it was not until Thomas came home that the long-standing leader, Belgium's Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), was knocked off his perch.