Canberra cyclist Michael Matthews has pulled out of the race for a second green jersey to increase his chances of adding to his three Tour de France stage wins.
Matthews was second in the points classification behind Peter Sagan going into stage 11, but didn't add to his tally of 167 points and instead focused on his role as part of Sunweb teammate Cees Bol's lead-out train.
Bol finished eighth behind Matthews' fellow Australian Caleb Ewan, who put to bed his Tour demons to notch his first stage win.
Sagan now has 257 points, with Elia Viviani second on 184 following the stage that finished in Toulouse early Thursday.
Matthews revealed Sunweb's tactics were part of their plan to open more opportunities for him later in the Tour.
As a green jersey contender, Sagan would closely marked any move Matthews made to be part of any breakaway groups.
But with him out of contention for the jersey Sagan's looking to win a seventh time, maybe Matthews will be free to do that.
The 28-year-old came into the Tour with his main focus to add to his two stage wins in 2017 and one the previous year.
"I'm too close in the green jersey points for Sagan to let me go in the breakaway, so in the end we have to either keep fighting for the green and give away stage wins, or go for stage wins and give away the green jersey," Matthews said.
"It's a decision we had to make."
Matthews said working for Bol would boost his morale having come close to a stage win with a second and two fourths, without being able to crack it.
"I'll come back more motivated, I think," he said.
"I showed the team I'm willing to help them on a stage that suits them better than it suits me.
"That's what brings a good team spirit up - one of the leaders dropping back and saying, 'OK we'll ride for you today, you've done some really good work for me'."
Ewan's morale is sky high having claimed his first sprint victory in his debut Tour.
A little more than a year ago, he was devastated to be left out of cycling's biggest race.
The Australian sprinter had to watch on TV after finding out at the last minute that his Mitchelton-Scott team were placing all their bets on Adam Yates in the fight for the yellow jersey and would leave Ewan at home.
A year later, he was saluting in the Tour for the first time.
"I was ready for the Tour three of four years ago, I always wanted to go straight to the top races," said Ewan, whose daughter was born just before the race started.
"I've been held back. I finally got my chance."
Ewan switched teams to Lotto-Soudal this season to replace veteran German sprinter Andre Greipel and the ambitious youngster was, at last, promoted to a team leader role this summer in France.
But the pressure was weighing on Ewan, a winner of 36 professional races including stages at the Spanish Vuelta and Giro d'Italia.
After coming close in earlier Tour stages with three third-place finishes and a runner-up, he finally delivered by edging one of the peloton's fastest men.
The 25-year-old beat Dylan Groenewegen by a tyre's width and was awarded the victory after a photo finish.
Viviani was third ahead of three-time world champion Sagan.
Ewan timed his effort perfectly after Groenewegen launched his bid on the left side of the road.
He took the wheel of his Dutch rival and pipped him to the line.
The win made up for Ewan leaving Australia just after the birth of his daughter Lily.
He thanked his wife for allowing him to realise his cycling dream.
"It was super hectic. I ended up in Groenewegen's wheel coming out of that corner," Ewan said.
"It's a hard thing being with Dylan and I knew it was not going to be easy to beat him ... I'm happy that this time I was a few centimetres ahead of him." with AAP