Second, its riders were racing for the stage win.
With Aru dropping from 18 seconds behind to nearly a minute back on Froome, the Briton's closest rivals are now Bardet and Colombia Rigoberto Uran, both 27 seconds down.
The French Romain Bardet, third of the Tour, is just managing to go back, with the help of the champion of Belgium Oliver Naesen, determining in the circumstances. It was difficult without Matteo (Trentin) and Philippe, who were forced to say goodbye to the race earlier.
"If I had done anything wrong the race officials would have told me". "Or it could be blown wide open - that still remains to be seen".
Organisers thought that offering double points at the summit of Izoard would add spice to the King of the Mountains competition, but that hasn't come to pass: Warren Barguil has that competition sewn up.
Froome may not dominate the mountains like in previous years but, unlike Aru, he resisted Bardet's attacks with no real difficulties.
Only 29 seconds had separated the top four on the general classification at the start of the day and they closely marked each other all the way.
Britain's Chris Froome believes he is going from strength to strength after increasing his lead on the Tour de France's first day in the Alps.
"I wouldn't argue with that", Froome said. I am curious how I will perform in the time trial in Marseille.
Instead, it will be a few specialist climbers who will form a breakaway early on in the day and battle for stage victory on the slopes of the Izoard.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), Bardet, and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) all attacked from the group of favorites, with Landa opening daylight before Froome attempted to bridge up to his teammate and contend for the stage win. "I'll do my maximum for sure", he said. "Everything is still on the table".
Matthews, who was close to the German Marcel Kittel in the points classification (green jersey), has concluded the work of his team during a good part of this stage of 165 km conducted at a brisk pace, more than 45 km/h.
Bury's Simon Yates conceded another 25 seconds to South African rival Louis Meintjes in the young riders' classification but the Orica-Scott rider still holds the white jersey by a margin of two minutes and six seconds.
"But I'm really happy".
Matthews made the most of a slightly uphill section 500 meters from the line and accelerated after Greg Van Avermaet launched the sprint.
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