A strong climbing performance has lifted Australian Richie Porte to third place overall after the first mountain stage of the Tour de France.
Porte finished fourth on the 161km eighth stage from Tomblaine to the ski station at Garardmer, won by Frenchman Blel Kadri.
Alberto Contador took second place ahead of Vincenzo Nibali, who retained the yellow jersey after crossing the line third just ahead of Porte.
But the 29-year-old Sicilian played down the importance of Contador’s gain.
“On the final climb Alberto kept attacking but I managed to follow him quite comfortably,” said the Astana team leader.
“The finish was 1.8km and really steep. It wasn’t really ideally suited to my characteristics, I’m not really explosive. I got the wrong gear and he accelerated straight afterwards.
“The important thing was that I was there. He took three seconds in the last 100 metres but I don’t know how significant that can be.
“I’m happy with my form. There are more important climbs to come.”
It was the first real opportunity for the overall favourites to stretch their legs in an uphill finish and the results were remarkable.
Nibali lost time only to Tinkoff-Saxo leader Contador, but Porte, the new Team Sky leader after reigning champion Chris Froome’s withdrawal on Wednesday, gave notice of his intent by losing just four seconds to the Nibali.
“I’m happy with how that went, it is not really my bread and butter and I think that on the longer climbs I will be better,” Porte told ITV4.
“Tinkoff-Saxo are riding very aggressively from a long way out, a bit like Team Sky used to do.”
Porte moved up to third overall at 1min 58sec but the bigger mover was Contador, up 10 places to sixth at 2:34.
Nibali’s team-mate and chief domestique Jakob Fuglsang is second overall but he lost 1:42 to his leader and is only 14sec ahead of Porte. His time in the leading places will almost certainly end on Monday’s gruelling mountain stage, if not before.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s acceleration in the final 25km sorted out the favourites in form from those who will have to wait another year.
Alejandro Valverde, now fifth overall at 2:27, lost 16sec to Nibali and Tejay Van Garderen gave up 20sec.
The American is now 13th at 3:34, having lost more than a minute due to a crash Friday.
Andrew Talansky crashed for the second day in a row at the end of the stage and lost more than two minutes to now sit 16th at 4:22.
Kadri, 27, became the first home winner of a stage this year.
He was part of a five-man breakaway that pulled out a lead of more than 11 minutes at one point.
By the time the first of the three climbs arrived, the peloton had shaved more than six minutes off that lead.
Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel attacked on the Col de la Croix des Moinats but Kadri countered and rode away from his compatriot.
The peloton was closing in but Kadri had the strength to resist as all his escape companions were swallowed up.
It was the 27-year-old’s first Tour stage victory and he also took possession of the polkadot jersey for best climber.
“It was crazy. I tried to match (team-mate) Christophe Riblon’s achievements (he won stages in 2010 and 2013) from the past,” said AG2R’s Kadri.
“The team’s main aim was to win a stage and now that’s done.”