Earlier Etixx-QuickStep duo Tony Martin and Julian Alaphilippe decided to book themselves a day in the breakaway, with the German time trial champion putting in a huge dig for his French team-mate.
Lawson Craddock (Cannondale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo) chased behind, but Martin’s efforts kept them out of reach, and the BMC Racing-led peloton at five minutes behind.
Martin and Alaphilippe continued to lead, even after the chasers were swept up and the lead cut to less than three minutes; the Frenchman took some pulls on the climbs, but it was Der Panzerwagen doing much of the work.
An average speed in excess of 47km/h highlighted the effort Martin was putting in, but BMC Racing continued to eat into the lead, which was less than a minute-and-a-half at the intermediate sprint.
With plenty of points available for the peloton at the intermediate sprint, Sagan’s Tinkoff team-mates led him out but there was little competition with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) happy to roll across on his wheel.
The Etixx-QuickStep duo’s efforts were to count for nothing too, as Alaphilippe found the going too tough on the day’s sole categorised climb, the 1.2km, category-four Cote de Muehleberg.
Martin took the mountain point, but his lead was wiped out shortly afterwards before he got spat back out the back, the same direction Alaphilippe had gone – the two both paying for their efforts too much to help team-mate Marcel Kittel chase back on.