Geraint Thomas rode his way into the yellow jersey with a memorable victory on Stage 11 of the Tour de France to La Rosiere.
The Team Sky rider attacked six kilometres from the top of the final climb of this 108.5km stage from Albertville to claim his second career Tour stage win.
His mission when he first made his move was to catch rival Tom Dumoulin, the Team Sunweb rider who was looking to make his own gains in the General Classification.
But when former team-mate Mikel Nieve slid into view, trying to win the stage from the breakaway, another prize was on offer and Thomas kicked again, passing the Mitchelton-Scott man inside the final 400 metres.
Team-mate Chris Froome came third, alongside Dumoulin, some 20 seconds later in a pretty much perfect day for Team Sky as they made up time on their rivals.
Thomas now leads by one minute 25 seconds from Froome, with Dumoulin a further 19 seconds back in third place.
It is a second spell in yellow for Thomas after he held it for four days of last year’s Tour following victory in the opening time trial in Dusseldorf.
Though the sight of Sky massed on the front of the peloton most of the day was not one to excite fans, Thomas delivered the stage win with panache.
With BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet struggling off the back of the peloton by the midpoint of the stage on the Col du Pre, the battle for yellow was on.
Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde tried a long-range attack, while Dumoulin attacked on the descent of the penultimate climb, the Cormet de Roseland, linking up with Valverde before the road rose up again towards La Rosiere.
But Sky kept their powder dry until Thomas launched his move. Froome initially held back, marking counter-moves from AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet and UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin before leaving them both behind and catching Dumoulin.
Martin showed attacking intent and tried to break away from the chasing group with 10km to go, but was quickly reigned in on the descent of the Col de la Colombiere.
Keen to limit the time gap, the Stage 6 winner pushed up the final kick to secure a respectable seventh place and remain in the hunt overall in 17th place – five minutes off the pace.
Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) won the stage after breaking away early and looking in full control as he crossed the line 01:34” in front of his nearest rival.
Greg Van Avermaet extended his lead in yellow to more than two minutes with a superb ride.
The BMC rider crossed the line fourth on the stage but one minute 39 seconds ahead of the main group of contenders, which included Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, plus Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott.
That saw the Belgian extend his overall lead to two minutes and 22 seconds over Thomas, with Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde up to third.
Irishman Martin said: “It’s nice to get the first one out of the way. It’s always a bit nervous after the rest day. I’m pretty happy with that. It was a block head wind (on the final climb), every bone in my body said don’t attack.
“But I knew if guys were five or 10 seconds off the back, by the time we reach the bottom it could be one minute. The next two days are going to be brutal and I’ll see how my legs are – but I expect a lot more attacks tomorrow.”
There will be little time for riders to recover as they look ahead to another tough day in the mountains and battle a 108.5km route from Albertville to La Rosiere.
These parcours have already featured on this year’s UCI World Tour – as part of Stage 6 of the Criterium du Dauphine – so will be familiar to many of the riders.
Martin picked up a top five finish on that stage in June so will be hopeful of a strong performance as he hunts a second Tour de France stage victory.
Greg Van Avermaet extended his lead in yellow to more than two minutes with a superb ride as Julian Alaphilippe won Stage 10 of the Tour de France.
Van Avermaet was expected to surrender the race lead he has held since the Stage 3 team time-trial as the race moved into the Alps on Tuesday, but the Olympic champion defied predictions as he joined a breakaway and stayed away on the road to Le Grand-Bornand.
The BMC rider crossed the line at the end of the 158.5-kilometres route from Annecy fourth on the stage but one minute 39 seconds ahead of the main group of contenders, which included Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, plus Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott.
That saw the Belgian extend his overall lead to two minutes and 22 seconds over Thomas, with Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde up to third, three minutes and 10 seconds back.
Alaphilippe, 26, delivered his first career Tour stage win after moving off the front of the break at the summit of the Col de Romme, 28.5km from home.
The Quick-Step Floors rider gradually pulled away as he turned a bid for the climbers’ polka-dot jersey into a first French stage win of this Tour.
After his BMC team-mate Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour on Sunday, Van Avermaet started the second week with no agenda but to stay in yellow as long as he could, and put in a ride to honour the jersey here.
He joined an 18-strong break that had moved seven minutes clear by the time they crested the summit of the Montee du plateau des Glieres, heading on to the gravel roads over the plateau made famous by the French resistance in World War II.
Sky were pacing the peloton behind but, after slowing the pace to wait for Froome – who suffered a puncture on the gravel – they could not fully reel in the break.