BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France: Chris Froome survived a brutal early onslaught from his Tour de France rivals to retain the yellow jersey after an epic ninth stage won by Ireland's Dan Martin yesterday.
Having destroyed the field to snatch the overall lead in Saturday's opening mountain stage ahead of fellow Team Sky rider Richie Porte, the Briton had exposed himself to retaliation.
The Garmin-Sharp, Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff teams blew the peloton apart in the first of five climbs on a searing hot day in the Pyrenees ahead of the rest day, with Froome soon finding himself isolated.
The moves eliminated Froome's lieutenant Porte, who lost his second place overall, and restored hope among the other teams that the Tour was not over yet.
Overall, Froome leads Alejandro Valverde by 1:25 while Porte, who finished more than 10 minutes behind, dropped well outside the top 10 as hopes of a second consecutive Team Sky one-two evaporated.
Froome, however, had an answer for every attack from Valverde's Movistar team mates, with Alberto Contador's aides also joining the fight initiated by Garmin-Sharp's Tom Danielson, David Millar, Ryder Hesjedal and Martin.
The Movistar team were in control of a leading group in the last three climbs of the day but they ran out of energy and were eventually content with having eliminated Porte from the overall reckoning.
Colombian Nairo Quintana, holder of the white jersey for the best young rider, threw a few jabs in the last climb of the day to La Hourquette d'Ancizan (9.9-km at 7.5 percent) before the final descent to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
It was not enough to drop Froome, who had let Martin and Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang go near the top.
Martin was the fresher man and he outsprinted Fuglsang for the stage win.
"I knew the last 30-km quite well and I was lucky that Fuglsang came with me because I don't think I'd have survived," Martin told the BBC.
"I was praying to get caught with 20-km to go because my legs were hurting. It has been an incredible team effort today though so I had to finish it off for the guys."