Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome pulled off a remarkable recovery act to retain his hold on the yellow jersey, as Bauke Mollema claimed a first victory on an engrossing 15th stage.
Froome's hopes of claiming a fourth title in five years looked to be fading fast when the Team Sky rider suffered a mechanical problem at a point when he was already under pressure from a split in the peloton that saw his main rivals, Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), threaten to pull clear.
After falling the best part of a minute behind Aru and Bardet as he changed his bike, it took a huge effort for Froome to make up the deficit as the general classification contenders began to ascend the Col de Peyra Taillade — the day's toughest climb.
Yet the Briton was able to get back in the pack and finish with the same time as Aru and Bardet, whose AG2R La Mondiale team was chiefly responsible for the initial attack.
The day's main drama occurred some way behind the battle for stage glory, following an early breakaway on the 189.5km (approx. 118-mile) route from Laissac-Severac l'eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay that was followed by Tony Martin (Katusha) initially making a solo push.
Martin was reeled in by polka dot jersey holder Warren Barguil (Sunweb) just before reaching the summit of the Col de Peyra Taillade and Mollema then forged ahead at the front.
The Trek-Segafredo rider was able to make his attack stick for an impressive triumph, with Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Primoz Roglic (Lotto NL Jumbo) finishing 19 seconds back, just ahead of Barguil.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was the biggest mover in the GC standings as Froome retained respective advantages of 18 and 23 seconds over Aru and Bardet. A late surge from Martin saw the Quick-Step Floors rider climb to fifth, ahead of Landa.
GOOD DAY / BAD DAY
The gutsy Froome turned what had appeared set to be a miserable day into a superb one with his stunning fightback.
Mollema was able to revel in his first stage win, after timing his attack perfectly on the descent of the Col de Peyra Taillade, but Lotto Soudal's Tim Wellens was an early casualty on Sunday's stage as he abandoned.
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 64:40:21
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 0.18s
3. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +0.23s
1. Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) 373 points
2. Michael Matthews (Sunweb) 294 points
3. Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) 187 points
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Warren Barguil (Sunweb) 116 points
2. Primoz Roglic (Lotto NL-Jumbo) 38 points
3. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 36 points
NEXT UP ...
A well-earned day of rest for the weary riders ahead of next week's six concluding stages.