Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) has claimed his first Tour de France stage on a summit finish dogged by torrential rain and hail, while Chris Froome (Team Sky) has retained his slender lead on the yellow jersey and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) finally called it a day.
Dumoulin attacked the break of the day 12km from the finish on the slopes of the Arcalis climb on the final Pyrenean leg of the Tour de France from Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorre Arcalis, pursued by Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff).
As the riders approached the summit, a fierce storm hit the finish line. Dumoulin plowed a lone path through the pooling water and ended up holding off the chasing duo behind for the win.
The victory means that the Giant-Alpecin rider has now claimed stage wins in all three Grand Tours.
"It's a dream and it came true," said Dumoulin, "I cannot even speak right now, I'm so tired. It was an incredible day, the whole day, the queen stage... it was really, really hard and I did it."
Dumoulin said he was keen to showcase his ability against the best in the mountains.
"Of course I'm a time trial specialist, but today I showed that I can do more. I showed that in the Vuelta last year and I'm so, so happy, it's just incredible."
Froome emerged from the storm on the final climb as the winner of the general classification battle, matching attacks from Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and white jersey wearer Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) kept his powder dry, matching the surges to move into fourth on the general classification, just 23 seconds behind Froome.
Contador calls it a day
The drama on the stage started early with Alberto Contador retiring from the race 100km from the finish citing fever.
Contador was an agitator in the early part of the stage, chasing a move by a large group of strong climbers along with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and world champion Peter Sagan. It quickly became apparent that Contador far overestimated his strength, eventually climbing into the team car after 84 kilometres raced.
— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) July 10, 2016
Heat in the valley
Meanwhile, the Valverde group was being shut down by a concerted chase from Team Sky. With the cooperation in the front group faltering and angry gestures being thrown Valverde's way, the Movistar rider dropped back to the peloton. The gap to the front move was then allowed to go back up, reaching a maximum of 10min30.
The break started fighting amongst themselves for the stage win on the penultimate climb of the Col de Beixalis, with multiple attacks going clear and being clawed back. At the foot of the final climb, the Andorre Arcalis, the break had an advantage of nine and a half minutes over the peloton and the attacks continued in earnest. Dumoulin went off the front first, quickly establishing a gap before Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Rafal Majka realised the danger and went on the offensive.
As the riders approached the summit, a fierce storm hit the finish line with hail and hard rain assaulting the riders trying to battle their way uphill. Dumoulin plowed a lone path through the pooling water and ended up holding off the chasing duo behind for the win as he celebrated the enviable feat of taking a stage win in each of the Grand Tours in succession.
The battle of the contenders
The fight for the general classification was just as fierce as the weather, with Sergio Henao (Team Sky) launching hostilities. Attacks and counterattacks came thick and fast from Porte, Froome and Martin who all tried to dislodge their rivals via sharp surges.
— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) July 10, 2016
The attacks eventually whittled down the top contenders to an elite few; by the final kilometre, it was just Porte, Martin, Quintana and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) who were still in touch with the yellow jersey of Froome. Yates kicked on the final approach to the line, gaining a few seconds on Porte and Martin.
Fabio Aru (Astana) was the major loser of the day out of the other podium contenders, losing nearly a minute and slipping to 13th on GC. Other contender who lost time included Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Wilco Kelderman (Lotto NL-Jumbo).
Peter Sagan continued his battle to reclaim the green jersey from classification leader Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data). remaining in the break to the intermediate sprint 140 kilometres into the stage. The 20 points collected moved him into second position on the points competition just seven points behind
There was also a spirited battle for the polka dot jersey, with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) sprinting at the top of each climb and splitting the wins, whilst the man in the mountains jersey Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) saved his energy in collecting the points for the minor places.