Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt produced a truly stunning performance to win Tour de France Stage 8 between Macon and Saint-Etienne as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick Step) retook the yellow jersey.
The breakaway specialist De Gendt was in a four-man escape in wine country, which was whittled down to two in the closing stages, as he went clear with Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team).
De Gendt then struck out on his own in typical style and somehow managed to hold off a concerted late counterattack by Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
On the final uncategorised climb before the finish, De Gendt looked likely to be caught as the gap to his two chasers fell to just 10 seconds, but he eventually held them off by six seconds, with Pinot second on the stage and Alaphilippe third.
Frenchman Alaphilippe thus retakes the overall race lead from Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), by 23”.
Geraint Thomas (Team INEOS) and team-mates Gianni Moscon and Michał Kwiatkowski were caught in a late crash but the Welshman managed to rejoin the group of favourites, and did not appear to be badly injured, although one team bike was smashed in two by the impact.
The other initial escapees were Ben King (Team Dimension Data) and Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) but they eventually fell away on a punishing stage which included 3,700m of ascending and seven categorised climbs.
De Gendt said: "I’ve had a good feeling the whole Tour. From 70km to go I started to believe in a possible victory, but still it hurt, it hurt so much."