Britain’s Geraint Thomas became the Tour de France’s overall leader with an impressive victory on stage 11.
Team Sky rider Thomas attacked with six kilometres left on a frenetic final climb up La Rosiere, to finish 20 seconds ahead of team-mate Chris Froome and second-placed Tom Dumoulin.
Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet, who had led since the third stage, was well down the field in the main peloton.
Thomas leads the race overall from Froome by one minute 25 seconds.
However, Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who has been unable to add to his 30 stage wins in this year’s edition of the race, is out of the Tour after finishing outside the stage’s time limit.
The 33-year-old was eliminated, along with German Marcel Kittel and Australian Mark Renshaw.
However Thomas, who was two minutes 22 seconds behind Van Avermaet in the overall standings at the start of the day, rarely looked like faltering towards the end of the 108.5km stage, which again demonstrated the strength of Team Sky in the mountains.
Thomas bridged a gap of more than 90 seconds to deny Spain’s Mikel Nieve his first stage win on the tour and powered away from a group containing four-time champion Froome and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
“It is unreal – I didn’t expect it,” he said.
“We were low on numbers, so it was instinct when I went. I committed, got across to Dumoulin and then sat on. It was a shame because Mikel Nieve is a nice guy but I had to go for the win.
“It is always an honour to be in yellow. I knew it was a good chance but I didn’t know what everyone else would ride like. We were expecting attacks.
“It is never nice to see them ride away but we had confidence in each other.”
Sky’s twin-threat heading for conflict?
It was a finale that demonstrated the delicate politics of Team Sky’s ongoing two-pronged approach to the general classification.
When Thomas launched an attack off the front of the peloton with five kilometres to go, Froome – his Sky colleague and four-time Tour de France champion – waited for another rider to follow rather than lead the chase himself and potentially aid a rival team.
After a delay, Dan Martin’s attack gave Froome a wheel to follow, but Thomas responded with a second spurt off the back of Dumoulin to take victory.
Not only did Thomas’ win secure yellow but, with a time bonus on the line, it also extended his advantage over Froome by 26 seconds.
With another taxing stage to come tomorrow, the two Sky riders may soon find themselves unable to avoid direct conflict.
Chase over for Cavendish
More than two years have passed since Cavendish celebrated his fourth stage win of the 2016 Tour de France by crossing the line in Villars-les-Dombes with the appropriate number of fingers held aloft.
He has not won another since.
Given the emergence of new sprint rivals such as Fernando Gaviria and the continued excellence of current green jersey holder Peter Sagan, Cavendish’s pursuit of the individual record of 34 Tour de France stage wins, set by Belgian legend Eddy Merckx, seems increasingly difficult.
After being forced out of last year’s race with a broken shoulder, he has looked tentative and off the pace in the various sprint opportunities so far in this edition.
His failure to tough out an admittedly taxing stage will damage his Grand Tour status further.
Stage 11 result
1. Geraint Thomas (Gbr/Team Sky) 3hrs 29mins 36secs
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +20secs
3. Chris Froome (Gbr/Team Sky) same time
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita/BMC) +22secs
5. Mikel Nieve (Spa/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
6. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Emirates) +27secs
7. Jesús Herrada (Spa/Cofidis) +57secs
8. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +59secs
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) same time
10. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar)
General classification after stage 11
1. Geraint Thomas (Gbr/Team Sky) 44hrs 6mins 16 secs
2. Chris Froome (Gbr/Team Sky) +1min 25secs
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1min 44secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) +2mins 14secs
5. Primož Roglic (Slo/LottoNL-Jumbo) +2mins 23secs
6. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) +2mins 40secs
7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 56secs
8. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +2min 58secs
9. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +3mins 16secs
10. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Emirates) same time