LA ROSIERE – Welshman Geraint Thomas soared to victory in the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday to take the overall leader's yellow jersey.
Thomas, of Team Sky, completed an impressive ride on the 108.5km stage from Albertville to the summit of La Rosiere by overtaking Spaniard Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton) in the closing metres.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) finished second at 20sec, just ahead of Sky leader and four-time champion Chris Froome.
"It’s unreal I didn’t expect it at all," Thomas said. "I knew there was a good chance (of going into yellow) but I didn’t know how everyone else was going to ride.
"Wearing the yellow jersey is a massive honour. I managed to do it last year and to do it two years in a row is really nice."
Thomas, who wore the yellow jersey for four days in 2017 after winning the opening time trial, now leads teammate Froome by 1min 25sec in the overall standings.
Dumoulin is third at 1:44, while the Spanish Movistar team's best-placed rider is Mikel Landa at 2:56, in seventh.
"We didn't do as well as we expected," said Movistar climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, who dropped to ninth overall at 3:16 behind Thomas. "It was a very hard rhythm all day long. We lost a few seconds that, I hope, don't ruin our chances of aiming for the overall victory."
Thomas had struggled to hide his disappointment after missing the chance to race into the lead on Tuesday when, sitting only 43secs behind Belgian Greg Van Avermaet, Sky's tactics fell short of his personal expectations.
But a day before a third and final salvo in the Alps, which ends with the race to the summit of the legendary Alpe d'Huez, the formidable British outfit gave the Welshman a chance to make amends.
A 20-strong breakaway group that escaped early on the first of the day's four climbs contained no threats to Sky's race-winning ambitions.
And when Sky finally did come under threat, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde attacking them 5km from the summit of the Cormet de Roselend 33km from the finish, it proved too little too late.
Valverde raced over the summit to find Movistar teammate Marc Soler up ahead and, further up the road, found another ally in Dumoulin.
But the Spaniard's limits soon became clear when he refused, or was unable, to help the Dutchman when it came to taking his turn at the front.
With 15km and the final climb remaining, Sky's impressive pace-setting was holding firm. Only 40sec behind Valverde and Dumoulin, they had the pair well within their sights.
The final remnants of the earlier breakaway were left to their own devices when Nieve attacked 9km from the finish.
One kilometre further on, Valverde was reeled in by Sky and soon dropped.
The real drama came after the 5.5km to go mark, however.
An attack by Thomas prompted climbing specialist Romain Bardet to counter, which in turn prompted Froome to counter the Frenchman.
An attempt by Dan Martin to leave Froome in his wake was answered in defiant fashion by the Kenyan-born Briton, who spun the pedals in furious fashion to catch and then overtake the Irishman.
With less than 3km to the summit, Thomas and Dumoulin had Nieve only 30sec up ahead.
And when the Spaniard came within sight, the Welshman accelerated inside the final 500 metres to overtake him and solo over the line punching the air in triumph.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)