Defending champion Alberto Contador relaunched his yellow jersey bid with an unexpected attack on the 16th stage of the race, won by Norway’s Thor Hushovd in Gap on Tuesday.
With only 15 kms to go, the Spaniard stepped it up a gear on the Col de Manse and held his nerve to drop yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler and both Schleck brothers.
Meanwhile, Hushovd broke clear along with Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and the World champion eventually overcame a late surge from his fellow countryman to clinch his second stage in this year’s race.
Former two-time runner-up Cadel Evans finished 4:23 behind Hushovd to move one place up to second overall.
HTC’s Tony Martin had to settle for fourth place while Contador and Samuel Sanchez crossed the line three seconds behind the leader at 4:26.
France’s Thomas Voeckler retained the yellow jersey, but Evans and Contador both made significant gains.