LA ROSIERE, France (Reuters) - Geraint Thomas claimed the stage win and the race leader’s yellow jersey on the Tour de France on Wednesday, with a powerful ride up the final climb of a grueling 108km run from Albertville to La Rosière.
Team Sky’s Thomas, who won the Criterium du Dauphine last month, attacked near the end of the 11th stage. The 2017 Giro champion Tom Dumoulin took second place, 20 seconds behind Thomas and just ahead of his Team Sky colleague and defending champion Chris Froome.
Among the race’s other top contenders, France’s Romain Bardet, Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian Nairo Quintana crossed the line 59 seconds behind Thomas.
The Welshman attacked from the group of favorites with nine kilometers left of the 17.6-km ascent at an average gradient of 5.8 percent to La Rosiere, and caught Dumoulin, who had attacked earlier.
The Dutchman could not sustain the pace of Thomas, who also caught and then left in his wake the Spaniard Mikel Nieve, the last survivor of the day’s breakaway.
“I just felt good today, I followed my instincts,” said Thomas, who now leads Froome by one minute 25 seconds and third-placed Dumoulin by 1:44.
Several top contenders sustained heavy losses. Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who was on the attack in the final climb, finished 3:30 off the pace, and Britain’s Adam Yates crossed the line 4:42 behind.
Last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran finished 26:07 down, killing off any hopes he may have had of a podium finish.
Thursday’s 12th stage is likely to see the favorites battle it out for yellow again with a summit finish on the iconic Alpe d’Huez.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson