Wednesday's 203.5km stage from Eymet to Pau provided some riders, including yellow jersey owner Christopher Froome, enough comfort before they addressed the challenge ahead.
Marcel Kittel won Stage 11 of the 2017 Tour de France to take his fifth stage win of the race after a bold attack by Maciej Bodnar came so close to upsetting the status quo on what otherwise looked like another routine day for the sprinters.
In 2016, Froome stopped to wait for three teammates who had crashed in a descent ahead of the climb up to the Mont Ventoux, and the rest of the peloton slowed down to wait on them. He was able to continue after switching bicycles.
"I escaped unhurt but now I'm happy that the flat stages are over", said Bardet, who is expected to attack in Thursday's 12th stage, a 214.5-km trek featuring three major climbs and a summit finish in Peyragudes.
"It's never enjoyable to fall".
"When you're on your top level as a sprinter, it's like playing Tetris and you're just trying to find the gaps", said Kittel. As for Fuglsang, he already broke the wrist that's injured today.
The final 50 kilometres are identical to those raced over back on Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour.
"A huge, huge honor", Froome said of reaching that mark. "Everything was good on our side". After a big breakfast, the riders will instead stay fueled with energy gels, bars and drinks as they scale a succession of climbs, finishing with a short but sharp uphill finish that could tempt overall race leader Chris Froome and his rivals to try to leave each other behind.
France's Romain Bardet is third at 51sec.
Team Sky road captain Luke Rowe is one of the key men charged with keeping Froome in yellow, but he is unfazed by the prospect of being the Tour's Lantern Rouge.
With a final time trial in Marseille favouring Froome, the Briton could on Thursday virtually put the hammer down on the Tour.
"We've been going quite well but today was really one of the days where we needed to nail it and we didn't".
"We don't want guys who have lost time to get back into the game", the defending champion said.
A sprint specialist, Kittel has now won 14 Tour de France stages in five appearances at cycling's showcase event, a record for a German rider.
He was eventually passed in the closing metres, with Kittel outsprinting The Netherlands' Dylan Groenewegen and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen to win in 4 hours, 34min and 27sec.