Colombia's Nairo Quintana celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the eighteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 208 kilometers (130 miles) with start in Embrun and finish in Valloire. Photo: Thibault Camus/AP Photo

VALLOIRE  Nairo Quintana claimed an emphatic win in the 18th stage of the Tour de France, a 208-km mountain trek from Embrun, as fellow Colombian Egan Bernal emerged as the strongest of the top contenders on Thursday.

Twice Tour runner-up Quintana, who dropped out of overall contention last week, prevailed from the day’s breakaway thanks to an impressive attack in the ascent to the Col du Galibier.

Frenchman Romain Bardet took second place 1:35 behind Quintana, who snatched his third career Tour stage win, with Kazakhstan's Alexey Lutsenko third (2:28).

France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey but Bernal moved up to second place 1:30 off the pace as he gained 32 seconds after also attacking about two kilometres from the top of the Col du Galibier.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas later jumped away from the favourites’ group, only to be reined in by Frenchman Thibaut Pinot as Alaphilippe cracked in the final part of the climb before coming back in the descent to the finish.

The Welshman is 1:35 behind Alaphilippe overall.

Reuters