The final day in the Pyrenees saw Alejandro Valverde emerge victorious on the 17th Stage of the Tour de France after a solo ride to the finish over the last 30km.
Valverde (Movistar) left a shattered peloton behind to cross the finish line first at the end of the 143.5km stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.
It was Valverde's third career Tour de France stage victory, and his first since 2008.
"I'm absolutely delighted with the win," said Valverde. "I couldn’t believe it when I was alone and the script today gave me much joy. I’m so pleased the team finally got a victory after all the effort we have put in."
The Team Sky duo of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins dominated the final kilometres of the stage to finish second and third.
The pair had led a frantic chase of Valverde on the day's fifth and last climb but the Spaniard, who had broken away from an early escape group on the Col de Peyresourde, dug deep to deny them a stage victory.
The first three places on the general classification remained the same with race leader Wiggins combining with second placed Froome to shut down any moves from their most dangerous rival, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) extended his king of the mountains lead after a stage long battle with Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana).
Voeckler began the stage with 107 points with Kessiakoff four points in arrears, but he claimed the major points on the Col de Mente and Col des Ares to more than double his margin.
Defending champion Cadel Evans, who lost nearly five minutes to Wiggins on the 16th stage to drop to seventh overall, lost more time after struggling to hold the pace inside the final few kilometres.
The stage finished on the 15.4km long first category mountain on Peyragudes but before the peloton hit the final climb, they had already traversed four other climbs including the above category Port de Bales.
Valverde was a part of a 17-man group, which included Voeckler, allowed to break away by a watchful peloton.
While the break was attempting to establish a sustainable lead, behind them a number of counter attacks were mounted until a successful grouping led by Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) bridged to Valverde and Voeckler.
With their ranks inflated the group rode out to a maximum lead of 3 minutes 5 seconds at the 71km mark while behind them Vincenzo Nibali's Liquigas-Cannondale squad was driving the peloton hard.
It was on the Port de Bales climb that the race opened up for Valverde when his Movistar team mate Rui Costa attacked in an effort to set the race up for his team leader.
Valverde then attacked the remains of the break and bridged to Costa who assisted in the pace making until spent.
From that point on the race belonged to Valverde as he led the peloton by 2 minutes 45 seconds with just 15km to go.
Behind the eventual stage winner, the elite group containing Wiggins was placed under pressure by Lotto-Belisol's Van den Broeck who attacked 8.5km from the finish.
An attack also came from Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) but it was the powerful response of Wiggins and Froome which took everyone by surprise as the pair mounted a high speed chase to the man in front.
But with Valverde less than 30 seconds ahead, Wiggins and Froome appeared undecided about their commitment. This allowed Valverde the breathing space he needed, and the Sky pair continued with less determination to the finish, 19 seconds behind Valverde.
Friday night's (AEDT) 222.5km 18th stage takes the peloton back to the flatter terrain between Blagnac and Brive la Gaillarde.
Stage 17: 143.5km, Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes
1 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 4hr 12min 11sec
2 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:00:19
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky
4 Thibaut Pinot (FRA) FDJ-Big Mat 0:00:22
5 Pierre Rolland (FRA) Europcar 0:00:26
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) Lotto Belisol
7 Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:37
8 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC 0:00:54
9 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:02
10 Daniel Martin (IRL) Garmin-Sharp 0:01:11
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky 78hr 28min 02sec
2 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:02:05
3 Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:41
4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) Lotto Belisol 0:05:53
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC 0:08:30
6 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 0:09:57
7 Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) RadioShack-Nissan 0:10:11
8 Pierre Rolland (FRA) Europcar 0:10:17
9 Janez Brajkovic (SLO) Astana 0:11:00
10 Thibaut Pinot (FRA) FDJ-Big Mat 0:11:46