Britain’s Adam Yates lost the leader’s yellow jersey to Primoz Roglic as Tadej Pogacar won stage nine of the Tour de France.
Yates was dropped on the final climb of the 153km route from Pau to Laruns on another punishing day in the Pyrenees.
Marc Hirschi led for over 80km before being caught 1.5km from the finish, where Pogacar edged fellow Slovenian Roglic in a sprint.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Yates drops to eighth in the overall standings.
The 28-year-old crossed the line in 15th having looked resigned to the situation on the descent from the Col de Marie Blanque towards the finish.
As well as losing 54 seconds to the leading group, which also contained defending champion Egan Bernal, Yates also lost time to the likes of Romain Bardet, Guillame Martin and Nairo Quintana.
Bernal is now 21 seconds behind Roglic, who again justified his pre-race favourite tag with a series of accelerations on the final climb.
“Everybody dreams of wearing the yellow jersey one day in his life so first off I’m just happy how things are,” said current Vuelta a Espana champion Roglic.
“It’s a fight for every second now and lots of things will happen to each of us on the road to Paris.”
After Monday’s rest day, stage 10 is a flat 168.5km ride from Ile d’Oleron to Ile de Re.
‘It was fun while it lasted’
Yates, who moves to Ineos Grenadiers next season, sits 62 seconds off the overall lead after Roglic benefited from time bonuses.
The Englishman says he will revert to his original plan of targeting stage wins after four days in yellow.
“I did my best,” he said. “I knew coming into the race I wasn’t 100%.
“I gave everything I could to hang on. I think we can be pretty proud of what we did. We’ll freshen up with the rest day and go after some stages.
“I did what I could but there were just some guys with better condition than me. It is what it is.
“There are a lot of stages in the last week that suit me quite well so we’ll see what we can do. It’s a big honour to ride in yellow and it was fun while it lasted.”
Pogacar makes history
Despite only being 21 years old, Pogacar arrived in France as an outside favourite to win the yellow jersey after finishing third in the Vuelta a Espana in 2019 – his maiden season as a professional.
This victory saw him become the youngest stage winner at the Tour since Lance Armstrong in 1993 and also the youngest in the 21st Century.
While he lost time in the crosswinds into Lavaur in Friday’s seventh stage, he has recovered 42 seconds in the Pyrenees to move up to seventh place from 16th, 44 seconds behind Roglic.
“It was really crazy, and after that hard day to win the stage is incredible,” Pogacar said.
“I just wanted to gain as much time as I could in the GC [general classification] but in the last 800m I knew that a stage win is also 10 seconds so I was focused on the sprint and it was just full gas.
“Primoz is really good. He has won [stages] before and he will win again. I hope we can do great things.”
Stage nine result
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE-Team Emirates) 3hrs 55mins 17secs
2. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo Visma) Same time
3. Marc Hirschi (Swi/Sunweb)
4. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos Grenadiers)
5. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren)
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek-Segafredo) +11secs
7. Guillame Martin (Fra/Cofidis) Same time
8. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R-La Mondiale)
9. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo)
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling)
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) 38hrs 40mins 01secs
2. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos Grenadiers) +21secs
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra/Cofidis) +28secs
4. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R-La Mondiale) +30secs
5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Arkea-Samsic) +32secs
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) Same time
7. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE-Team Emirates) +44secs
8. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1mins 02secs
9. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +1mins 15secs
10. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren) +1mins 42secs