Caleb Ewan punches the air after winning stage 16. (Photo: AFP)
Caleb Ewan sprinted to his second victory on the Tour de France on Tuesday as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe kept the overall lead after stage 16, where Geraint Thomas fell but finished with all the main contenders.
As France experienced a heatwave defending champion Thomas mis-timed a curb and was left with a gash on his left leg after hitting the tarmac hard on the 177km run around the southern city of Nimes.
After his third fall during this Tour, Team Ineos' sports director Nicolas Portal said Thomas felt fine.
"He's OK, he needed another bike. All his left side is a bit messed up but nothing serious," he said.
"We have to refocus after the rest day," added Portal.
Thomas remains 1min 35sec behind Alaphilippe in the overall standings ahead of three challenging days in the Alps.
He also tumbled after flying over a barrier in the wild atmosphere in Brussels on the opening day, and again on the road to Saint-Etienne on stage eight.
This time the 33-year-old had no problem getting back to the pack on a flat stage with no wind to split the peloton.
Ewan meanwhile was following up his victory on stage 11 at Toulouse and with Nimes melting under 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) the Australian was favourite for a repeat performance, this time edging Italian Elia Viviani on the line.
Some fans stayed away due the extreme afternoon heat on this southern French route, but the conditions failed to slow the peloton as it sped past the celebrated regional vineyards and olive groves.
One of the great pre-race favourites Jakob Fuglsang, the Criterium du Dauphine champion, pulled out with 25km to go after falling and hurting his hand.
Dehydration was a major issue as team cars were carrying an average of 200 water bottles, many of them with added minerals and saline with riders expected to drink 15 of the half litre bidons each.
Wednesday's 17th stage sees the Tour head north towards its Alpine reckoning with a 200km run from the Pont du Gard bridge in the Camargue to Gap, where bonus seconds atop a climb 10km from the finish line ensure further drama ahead of the three much awaited stages that follow it.