Britain's Adam Yates held on to the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey as Nans Peters claimed a superb solo win on stage eight in the Pyrenees on Sunday (NZ time).
Some contenders were exposed while others imploded on the 141km mountain route from Cazeres-sur-Garonne to Loudenvielle.
Thibaut Pinot was among those to implode, as he effectively lost all hope of becoming the first Frenchman to win the race since 1985.
The 30-year-old, who last year abandoned the race two days from the finish in Paris, was suffering from back pains after a crash in the opening stage and Sunday's effort was too much to handle as he finished almost 20 minutes behind his rivals.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who was the 'Plan B' in pre-race favourite Primoz Roglic's Jumbo Visma team, could not sustain the pace in the last ascent to the Col de Peyresourde.
On that climb, a 9.7-km effort at an average gradient of 7.8 percent, Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, Roglic's compatriot, attacked repeatedly.
Roglic was in control, as well as Colombian Nairo Quintana, but defending champion Egan Bernal appeared to struggle and had to fight his way back to the favourites' group several times.
Roglic eventually let Pogacar, who was trailing him by 1:23 in the morning, ride away, but he never panicked and is still the best-placed top contender ahead of Sunday's ninth stage, another trek in the Pyrenees.
Yates leads Roglic by three seconds and France's Guillaume Martin by nine.
"I'm taking it day-by-day, it's pretty hard to follow the leaders but I'm going to try to keep the jersey for as long as possible," says Yates.
"I rode my own pace, came back on my own pace [in the last climb] and managed to stay with them over the top."
Kiwi, George Bennett, who is teammates with Roglic and Dumoulin, was the pick of the Kiwis, crossing the line in 49th to sit 34th in the general classification.