Chris Froome defended his yellow jersey with a defiant performance in the Pyrenees on stage nine of the Tour de France.
The 28-year-old rider now holds a one minute and 25 second lead over Alejandro Valverde after being left isolated for the majority of the 168.5-kilometre stage to Bagnères-de-Bigorre as Ireland’s Dan Martin took the stage win.
Froome’s teammates including Pete Kennaugh and Richie Porte had been dropped on the opening Col de Portet d’Aspet gradient, Kennaugh suffering a crash on the first of five climbs on the parcours.
It left Froome alone to defend numerous attacks from Movistar who had numbers in the group and were aiming to put Alejandro Valverde in the maillot jaune.
But the British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme rider exhibited his credentials, countering multiple attacks by Nairo Quintana on the final category one La Hourquette d'Ancizan to stay in the overall lead.
Ireland’s Martin, who had gone clear on the final summit with Jakob Fuglsang, made his move with 500 metres to go for a memorable victory for the Garmin-Sharp rider.
“That was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had on a bike,” Froome said.
“Being in that front group without any of my teammates left me a little exposed and a little vulnerable in that respect but credit where it is due the Movistar team took up the race and they had seven guys in front there and it made my job a little more difficult.
“I had to mark a few separate guys but I felt quite within myself on the climbs and I’m really glad to still have the yellow jersey.
On being isolated from his teammates, Froome insisted he wasn't too surprised.
“Not really given my teammates did such a big job yesterday to get me into the yellow jersey. They are only human they can’t be there every day at the front,” he said.
With four category one climbs to cover the stage exploded into life immediately and within 40-kilometres Froome found himself alone in a group containing six Movistar riders and GC rival Alberto Contador.
Amongst the Team Sky riders dropped, Kennuagh had suffered a crash which saw the Tour debutant leave the side of the road while Australian Porte, who came into the stage second in the general classification, appeared to be suffering from Saturday’s exertions.
The personnel in the lead group continually shifted before Simon Clarke went alone on the Col de Val Louron-Azet with 66-kilometres remaining as Porte tried to bridge the gap back to support Froome.
By the final climb, Clarke was caught before Quintana launched a final unsuccessful effort to unsettle Froome with Porte still adrift. Martin then attacked and with Fuglsang the duo stretched their gap on the final descent before duelling for the stage honours which went to the Irishman.
1 MARTIN Daniel Garmin - Sharp 04:43:03
2 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana Pro Team ,,
3 KWIATKOWSKI Michal Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 00:20
4 MORENO FERNáNDEZ Daniel Katusha Team ,,
5 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquim Katusha Team ,,
6 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team ,,
7 POELS Wout Vacansoleil - DCM ,,
8 MOLLEMA Bauke Belkin Pro Cycling Team ,,
9 NAVARRO GARCIA Daniel Cofidis Solutions Crédits ,,
10 MONFORT Maxime RadioShack - Leopard ,,
14 FROOME Christopher Sky Procycling ,,
1 FROOME Christopher Sky Procycling 36:59:18
2 VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro Movistar Team 01:25
3 MOLLEMA Bauke Belkin Pro Cycling Team 01:44
4 TEN DAM Laurens Belkin Pro Cycling Team 01:50
5 KREUZIGER Roman Team Saxo-Tinkoff 01:51
6 CONTADOR VELASCO Alberto Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,
7 QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander Movistar Team 02:02
8 MARTIN Daniel Garmin - Sharp 02:28
9 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquim Katusha Team 02:31
10 COSTA Rui Movistar Team 02:45