Poels entered the 191.3-kilometre journey to Andorra third in the climb rankings behind both Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea-Samsic) and Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) but collected 25 points in treks over Montee de Mont-Louis, Col de Puymorens, Port d’Envalira and Col de Beixalis.
The Bahrain Victorious rider was fierce in his sprint to the first summit, claiming 10 points ahead of fellow rivals Wout van Aert (8) and Woods (6).
Previous mountains jersey-holder Quintana was, curiously, not involved in the battle and the Colombian again failed to fire in the category 2 ascent up the Col de Puymorens.
Instead, van Aert took maximum points at the top, with Poels settling for 3 ahead of Woods (2) and Movistar Team’s Alejandro Valverde.
Woods looked to respond on the Port d’Envalira and attacked early, followed closely by eventual stage winner Sepp Kuss (Team Jumbo-Visma), but ultimately faded after a clean Quintana response 1.4 kilometres from the summit earned the Arkea-Samsic rider 10 points ahead of van Aert and Poels next in line.
The stage’s final climb – the Col de Beixalis – was one dominated by Kuss; the 26-year-old dropping Quintana and, later, Valverde en route to the summit.
Kuss quickly pushed his lead out to 30 seconds over the Spaniard, before a scorching descent into Andorra la Vella allowed him to take the stage victory – the first by an American at the Tour de France since 2011.
Valverde claimed 8 points on the final climb as a consolation for his second-placed finish to the stage, with Poels in third on both fronts.
The Dutchman now holds an eight-point lead over Woods in the battle for the polka-dot jersey, with Quintana and van Aert a further two points adrift ahead of the medium mountains stage from Pas de la Case to Saint Gaudens on Tuesday (AEST).
The Tour de France continues with Stage 16 on Tuesday, LIVE from 8:30pm (AEST) on SBS and SBS On Demand, with the SKODA Tour Tracker app commencing at 8:55pm (AEST).