Britain's Adam Yates could keep hold of the Tour de France lead for another week, the route designer and race director said after Thursday's summit finish in the magnificent Cevennes National Park.
Former rider Thierry Gouvenou explained to AFP that the peculiarity of the year and a difficult course was resulting in a prudent tactics.
"It's a very special year and the riders are unsure of exactly where they are physically so that would explain perhaps why today there was no attack, for example," Gouvenou said of Thursday's stage won by outsider Alexey Lutsenko.
"It's more about the circumstance with Covid than it is about the design of the course, which left room for plenty of aggressive riding," he insisted.
"For the riders its about managing effort," he said.
"Although not much happened on a stage like today with a summit finish, if there had been a huge time difference you'd say the Tour was finished. here at least the Tour isn't finished," he smiled before jumping into the red race-director car that leads the peloton.
Gouvenou said the two weekend stages in the Pyrenees could also be cagey and play into Yates hands.
"In the Pyrenees there are two downhill finishes. We'll see what comes of that, but I believe the peloton will take that with a certain caution.
"(If Yates) can get past the Pyrenees he can hold it until at least Puy Marie", Stage 13 on September 11.
"But to sum it up, its a peculiar year because of the big break, but above all its also a very difficult Tour where the riders are going into the unknown," he concluded.
Yates, a 28-year-old Briton, also said on Thursday he might hold on for a few days too.
"Tomorrow should be easy," said Yates when asked about Friday's flat stage, where he will likely keep the lead.
"I came here to win stages, so once we get to the high mountains I'll try, maybe in the Pyrenees," he told a press conference after the stage.
Yates took second place on the first stage in rain-lashed Nice. With riders falling frequently he chased after eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe and ended the day four seconds off the yellow jersey.
But on Wednesday, Alaphilippe was penalised for a technical error taking on water in the final 20km and being hit with a 20 second time penalty.
When that decision was made, Yates was still in the shower, but hot-footed it back to the podium to pick up a prize he will be hoping he can hold on to.