World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) scored a breakaway victory on the 13th stage of the Tour de France from Pau to Lourdes.
The 152.5 kilometres stage, which featured one huge climb up the hors categorie Col d'Aubisque, always looked likely to see a breakaway group dominate - and so it proved.
After numerous early attacks were foiled, 10 men finally got away after 57km and they included Hushovd, who wore the race leader's yellow jersey for much of the first week, and fellow Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).
Also in the group, which had an advantage of more than four minutes at the top of the day's second climb, the category four Cote de Belair, were Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad), Dimitri Fofonov (Astana), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Jérôme Pineau (QuickStep), Jérémy Roy (FDJ) and Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank).
They extended the lead to around nine minutes but it was the ascent of the 1,709m Col d'Aubisque, the summit coming nearly 50km from the finish, which proved decisive as Roy, Moncoutié and Hushovd distanced their escape rivals.
Roy was a minute and 22 seconds ahead of Moncoutié cresting the top, with Hushovd a further 23 seconds back, but those gaps closed up on the descent before Hushovd and Moncoutié joined up on the run to Lourdes to further eat into Roy's advantage.
And Hushovd timed his attack to perfection heading into the holy town, leaving Moncoutié trailing in his wake with 3.5km remaining before swooping past a tiring Roy 2km from home.
There was no catching Hushovd after that and he crossed the line 10 seconds to the good for his ninth stage win at the Tour, becoming the first world champion to win on cycling's biggest stage since Óscar Freire in 2002.
Moncoutié claimed second while Roy had to settle for third and the consolation of the polka dot jersey for the leading climber as well as the day's combativity award.
Bak was fourth, exactly five minutes back, just ahead of Pineau and Boasson Hagen.
With the leading contenders all rolling over the line together, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) remains in the yellow jersey, 1:49 ahead of Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) at 2:06 in third, Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) 2:17 in fourth and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) 4:00 adrift in seventh.
There were a couple more twists in the battle for the green jersey, with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) jumping out of the main pack and crossing the line in 10th.
That more than made up for him missing out on the remaining points in the day's intermediate sprint after 82.5km.
The breakaway group hoovered up the majority of the points on offer before José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) edged out Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) for 11th.
The latest standings see Cavendish on 264, Rojas on 251 and Gilbert on 240.
After the finish with his achievement sinking in, a thrilled Hushovd admitted: “This is the best moment ever in my career; winning alone on a hard day after climbing the Col d’Aubisque and in the rainbow jersey. I think it’s incredible.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was happy to be in the break and I was obviously strong. I attacked on the climb just to do my own rhythm and my goal was to come back on the descent which I finally did.
“I was strong on the flat and then I dropped them at the end. I’m just so happy.”