Ax-Trois-Domaines: Britain`s Chris Froome secured the Tour de France yellow jersey after a "dream" stage eight win on the first day in the mountains which proved costly for his rivals Saturday.
Sky team leader Froome launched an audacious solo attack 5km from the race`s first summit finish at Ax-Trois-Domaines and crossed the finish 51sec ahead of teammate Richie Porte to underline his overall victory credentials.
Spain`s former two-time winner Alberto Contador finished 1min 45sec behind while the victory hopes of 2011 champion Cadel Evans all but faded when the Australian trailed home 4:13 in arrears.
Froome, last year`s runner-up behind teammate Bradley Wiggins, now leads the race with a 51sec lead over Porte, with Spain`s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in third at 1min 25sec.
Contador (Saxo) is 1:51 off the pace while Australian Evans (BMC) is 23rd overall at 4:36.
"The objective for us today was to go for the stage and go for the jersey, but to finish one-two is just fantastic," said Froome, who took the race lead from South African Darly Impey. "This is really a dream come true."
Froome, remarkably, now appears to have only one real rival for the race, which does not end until July 21, in Contador.
But even he was surprised at how he and Sky performed in comparison to his rivals: "Yes I am a little bit surprised. I expected more of the GC (general classification) contenders to be more prevalent in the final.
"But I know that me and Richie have been training for months to be in this condition."
Porte, the last rider from Sky to set the pace on the 7.8km climb to the Pyrenean ski resort, said the order to hit full gas came from Froome after the Kenyan-born rider had realised Contador was in trouble.
"When Chris told me Alberto was no longer there, I just tried to give it everything I had," said the Australian.
"When I looked back and saw the other guys were really struggling on the wheel.... I just thought, this is the right moment to push on and get a bit of time," added Froome.
Despite an early four-man attack forming, the stage was lit up by a little Colombian who seems intent on grabbing a mountain stage win on his debut.
As Sky`s climbing pace dropped most of the peloton off the back on the 15 km climb to Pailheres, Nairo Quintana attacked and passed the frontrunners to launch an ambitious solo bid for victory.
The Movistar rider crested the 2,001-metre summit -- the highest in this year`s 100th edition -- with a 27sec lead on Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and 5,000 euros richer, thanks to a prize on offer by organisers.
However Peter Kennaugh led Sky over the summit barely 40sec later and then drove hard on the descent to reduce the gap to Quintana and Rolland, the latter having caught the Colombian by the foot of the final ascent, to 28sec.
Quintana launched a last-ditch solo bid for victory but Porte`s pace proved too much, for Quintana, Evans and then Contador.
Quintana lamented: "I thought I was going to win but the others were too strong. The whole Sky team were very good."
While the Colombian will look forward to further opportunities, Contador admitted he could have finishd even worse off.
"It wasn`t my best day," said the Spaniard. "I didn`t feel good on the last climb and it was thanks to (team-mate Roman) Kreuziger that I didn`t lose more time."
Evans, meanwhile, was at pains to explain his performance.
"Sky, they just rode a tempo that was really consistent, from when they started on the Pailheres to the bottom of the following climb. Not many people could match it," said the Australian.
"It`s my worst day at the Tour while I`m healthy. I certainly didn`t expect to be this far off."
Sunday`s ninth stage is a 168.5km ride from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
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