Frenchman Pierre Rolland claimed an epic 11th stage victory on the Tour de France Thursday as race leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain took another step towards overall victory.
Rolland soloed over the finish line after an epic day of racing to claim his second victory in the race a year after his maiden win at Alpe d'Huez to hand Europcar their second win in as many days.
The yellow jersey group of Wiggins came over the finish line of the 148 km stage from Albertville 57sec later. It included Italian contender Vincenzo Nibali and Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck.
Wiggins came under attack several times on the final 18km climb to La Toussuire — notably by Nibali and Van den Broeck.
But thanks to the help of Sky teammate Chris Froome the Englishman was ultimately able to reel them in and then drop defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia.
Evans, the 2011 champion, ran out of steam in the final kilometres of the climb to finish over a minute behind Wiggins and see his bid for a successful defence severely compromised.
Evans started the day in second place with a deficit of 1min 53sec to Wiggins but dropped to fourth overall at 3:19.
Wiggins now leads teammate Froome by 2:05, with Nibali third but still at 2:23 and Van den Broeck fifth at 4:48.
Rolland's victory comes a day after teammate Thomas Voeckler claimed his first stage win this year at Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine.
And it came in emphatic style.
After fighting to get into an early breakaway the Frenchman toiled with a number of rivals over the Col de la Croix de Fer summit, where he lost a 5000 euro prize to Swede Fredrik Kessiakoff, and then bounced back from a crash on a tight hairpin bend on the descent of the Col du Mollard.
On the last, 18 km climb to the summit of La Toussuire the Europcar man played his tactics perfectly, attacking and counter-attacking a four-man leading group before pulling away on his own with over 10 km to race.
Di Gregorio charged with doping offence
Marseille: Tour de France cyclist Remy Di Gregorio appeared in court here on Thursday and was charged with doping-related offences, his lawyer announced. The 26-year-old French rider is in the dock for possession of unauthorised medical equipment.