Team Sky put on an emphatic climbing display as Chris Froome won stage eight to move into the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
The Kenyan-born Brit benefited from the hard work of his eight team-mates before attacking in the final five kilometres on Ax 3 Domaines to lead home a Team Sky 1-2 ahead of Richie Porte.
The result saw Froome open out a stunning 51-second lead over his team-mate in the yellow jersey standings, winning the stage by the same margin on the first day in the mountains. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was the next man home, 1:08 back as the general classification was turned on its head.
Froome also pulled on the polka dot jersey for good measure after picking up a haul of points and topping the final climb with a handy advantage over his rivals.
An incredible display of teamwork saw each and every member of the team push the pace on the front during the 195-kilometre test as the race entered the Pyrenees and its first significant climbs.
Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen combined to keep Team Sky to the fore early on before the hors categorie Col de Paliheres ramped up to the highest point of this year's race.
David Lopez then took up the running before handing over to Vasil Kiryienka and Pete Kennaugh, the Brit helping to trim the advantage of lone attacker Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the descent.
Porte eventually took up the baton on the final climb and the Tasmanian’s pace blew apart the lead group and put chief rivals Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) into difficulties.
After the stage an overjoyed Froome reflected on the day and a magnificent team performance.
"I couldn’t be happier," he admitted. "It really has been a nervous week building up until now but the team has done a fantastic job. We’ve come through the first week in a really good position and being able to do that today, and being able to repay my team-mates with a stage win, and Richie coming second - we couldn’t have asked for more.
"This is the first real GC day so to come out and win it with first and second is just a dream come true."
Froome admitted that attacks from his rivals had got the team's attention as they now set about defending the maillot jaune.
"We were put under pressure there," he added. "This is only the first week of the Tour. We’ve still got two weeks to go and there’s definitely going to be some hard racing to come. We’ve got the yellow jersey and we’re definitely going to have to defend it. I was always confident with my team-mates around me. Pete Kennaugh, Richie Porte – they did an absolutely fantastic job bringing us up until the climb. That’s such a good way to start the mountains for us.”
Porte was also beaming after the finish and reiterated his friend's point that the race is far from over.
“It looks good for us but there’s still a long, long way to go," he confirmed/ "There’s still Ventoux and Alpe-d’Huez so it’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
Despite that the team were able to land a blow to a number of rivals, with Porte admitting to being surprised at the margin of victory.
“Of course it’s a massive surprise but it’s an absolute brilliant day for the team. When Quintana attacked we didn’t panic. You can’t ride away solo like that to the finish. It’s fantastic but you can’t get carried away. We’ll just enjoy the moment.”
The climbs begin
The toughest stage of the race thus far, the peloton were seemingly happy to allow four men up the road early on as Jean-Marc Marino (Sojasun), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) combined to good effect.
The quartet carved out a gap of 9:50 before Team Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE began to combine on the front of the peloton, Thomas swapping off in the rotation with the team of outgoing leader Darly Impey.
As the intermediate sprint in Quillan approached Cannondale hit the front to string things out but couldn’t prevent Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) winning the bunch kick for sixth ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step).
One by one the GC teams moved to the fore ahead of the 15.3km Paliheres ascent as rival trains formed – up ahead Riblon pushed onwards in an attempt to replicate his victory on Ax 3 Domaines in 2010.
Attacks began in earnest with Robert Gesink (Belkin) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) showing before Quintana fired clear to crest the climb first. The peloton followed just over a minute later with a group of less than 30 riders, always led by Team Sky.
With Quintana finally overhauled on the final first category ramps it was left to Froome and Porte to accelerate, gapping their rivals to put a stamp on the GC at the start of the second week.