John Degenkolb claimed victory on stage three to move into the lead at Paris-Nice while Geraint Thomas solidified his top-five place.
After two second places Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) finally carved out a win on the famous Magny-Cours race circuit as the sprinters again battled it out.
Thomas meanwhile had a front-row seat as the peloton raced onto ex-F1 venue and held his ground in the closing kilometres to finish in the main group.
The result placed the Team Sky Welshman fifth overall heading into a run of more selective stages, 21 seconds back on new race leader Degenkolb.
The German beat home Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) in the sprint, the latter leapfrogging Thomas after securing bonus seconds.
As the day wore on Team Sky solidified their presence at the front of the peloton, Luke Rowe and Edvald Boasson Hagen piloting the line as the pace began to rise on the approach to the circuit.
Three Frenchmen headed up the road early on in the break with Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), Romain Feillu (Bretagne - Seche Environnement) and Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) linking up well ahead of 180 racing kilometres.
The front trio soaked up the mid-stage bonus seconds which had provided an intriguing sub-plot in the opening two stages.
Positioning remained crucial and Team Sky were happy to place themselves and Thomas behind the sprint teams who surrounded the front of the peloton. FDJ were prepared to ride for Nacer Bouhanni's yellow jersey and with Omega Pharma - Quick-Step and Giant-Shimano all contributing the break always stood little chance of succeeding.
Quemeneur pushed clear to arrive solo into the circuit but was finally reeled in with 2km to go, just before the Melbourne Hairpin. Giant-Shimano drove the stretched peloton into the final kilometre, setting up their man Degenkolb, while seventh was not enough to allow Bouhanni to remain in yellow. The Frenchman sits eight seconds adrift as the race enters a new phase.
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, 4:27:26
2 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, same time
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, st
4 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana, st
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
6 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, st
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC, st
9 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
10 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin, st
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, 13:14:01
2 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, +8secs
3 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin, +12
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, +18
5 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +21
6 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar, +22
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
8 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
9 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale, st