Alexey Lutsenko powered up the brutal Col de la Lusette to claim a magnificent first Tour de France stage victory and Adam Yates retained the yellow jersey on Thursday.
Lutsenko was among eight riders to make a strong early break on the 191-kilometre sixth stage from Le Teil to Mont Aigoual and the Astana rider went solo 3.8km from the top of the lung-busting climb of the Col de la Lusette.
There was no catching the Kazakh, who produced a great tactical ride as he stormed to the biggest victory of his career three years after a winning his only Vuelta a Espana stage.
Lutsenko, 27, crossed the line 55 seconds before second-placed Cofidis rider Jesus Herrada, with Greg Van Avermaet third ahead of birthday boy Neilson Powless fourth.
Yates, donning yellow for the first time after Julian Alaphilippe was given a 20-second time penalty on Wednesday for an illegal feed, retained his advantage of three seconds over Primoz Roglic.
Alaphilippe looked like a man eager to prove a point when he made a late burst to finish fifth and claw a second back but remains 16th in the general classification standings, 15 seconds adrift of Yates.
The breakaway group started the first categorised climb, the Cap de Coste, with a lead of over five minutes from the peloton, but that was reduced significantly.
Van Avermaet was the virtual race leader as he went up the road with the breakaway group early on but ended the day 25th overall.
Fabio Aru attacked from the peloton on the long ascent of the Col de la Lusette before being caught around 10km from the finish.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR LUTSENKO
Lutsenko was on a mission to claw back some time on a tough stage and he felt the plans worked to perfection.
"This victory is very important for me. This is the Tour de France, the most important race in the world," he said. "I'm very happy. I've worked so hard to get this victory. All this work has paid off.
"Today we talked before the start, at the bus, with our DSs and our manager Alexandre Vinokourov… Since I had lost quite some time in previous stages, I had the chance to go in the breakaway.
"I did my best on the last climb to win. I never got dropped – I just kept a steady pace. The team car was telling us on the radio there were two very hard kilometres at the second part of the climb, so I rode my tempo and gave it all at those to create a gap big enough to win."
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) 4:21:22
2. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) +0:55
3. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) +2:15
4. Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling) +2:17
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) +2:52
1. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 27:03:57
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:03
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:07
1. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 129
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 117
3. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) 93
King of the Mountains
1. Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R La Mondiale) 23
2. Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling Team) 12
3. Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) 11
The riders will be hoping to avoid potential high winds during a seventh stage from Millau to Lavaur on Friday, which starts with a testing category three climb. The sprint teams will look to take command and set their speedsters for a dash at the end of a 168km route.