Rui Costa (Movistar) attacked on the final climb to solo to stage 19 victory in the rain and claim his second Tour de France stage win in four days.
Two-time Tour de Suisse champion Costa was part of a breakaway group which went early in the stage and pursued long-time leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar) for much of the day.
Then, on the final climb, the first category Col de la Croix Fry, the Portuguese attacked from the front of the chasers, catching and passing Rolland with 19km to go and soloing through treacherous conditions to take the stage.
Rolland’s efforts were not in vain, however, as he reclaimed second place in the King of the Mountains classification, one point behind maillot jaune, Chris Froome (Team Sky), who maintained his overall lead on a stage where he was largely untroubled by his rivals.
The previous day’s ‘Double d’Huez’ stage may have been brutal but there was no let up with the hors categorie Glandon and Madeleine ascents to climb in the first half of stage 19.
Despite yesterday’s historic twin ascent of the Tour’s most iconic climb, however, a large group of riders had enough in reserve to launch an early break.
Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol) and Jon Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) were the first two to go, before the former dropped back and was replaced by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).
Behind them a counter-attack of 42 riders broke clear, including two riders from Movistar – Costa and Ruben Plaza – and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Sergio Paulinho and Jesus Hernandez.
Sky, as ever, led the peloton, appearing untroubled by the escape, with Geraint Thomas setting a comfortable tempo for the bunch, which included all of the GC contenders.
Hesjedal and Izaguirre increased their lead at the front as they set a good pace up the climb, before Hesjedal attacked at the peak to take the maximum 25 King of the Mountains points on offer.
Behind them, Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and stage 18 winner Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), nursing the polka dot jersey for maillot jaune Froome and white jersey holder, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), attacked from the front of the large counter-attack.
Riblon reached the summit before his rivals, followed by Moser and then by Rolland, but their pace allowed them to build a slight advantage on the fast descent.
The tricky descent proved too much for Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE), with both crashing and the former forced to abandon as a result.
Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano), involved in the now infamous stage 10 collision with Mark Cavendish, and who started the stage as the lanterne rouge also abandoned after the first climb due to illness.
Back at the front, Hesjedal attacked Izaguirre as they began the climb of the Col de Madeleine, while Rolland went off the front of the counter-attack, just as the large group of early escapees caught them.
Still harbouring ambitions of winning the white jersey, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), was paced off the front of the peloton by team-mates Mark Cavendish and Jerome Pineau, but their break was caught on the second climb.
Rolland joined Hesjedal shortly before the summit while the large group of pursuers began to fracture, eventually splitting in two.
Hesjedal allowed the Europcar rider to take the maximum 25 points and reignite his bid for the polka dot jersey, but Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) led the second group over to ensure he too remains in the running.
The descent again caused problems as French champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr) and Lotto-Belisol’s Marcel Sieberg fell, the latter forced to abandon with a suspected broken collarbone.
The peloton became scattered and although second-placed GC rider, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) led the way down, nobody made an attack.
Rolland and Hesjedal continued to lead the way as they passed the intermediate sprint without contesting it – Hesjedal taking the 20 points.
In the pursuing group, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), fifth in the points classification, beat Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), seventh, to the kick but both remain well behind green jersey leader Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
None of the four leading sprinters were able to compete for the points with Sagan in the peloton and the others in the grupetto, which also contained Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
Rolland was forced to stop shortly before the third climb – the category two Col de Tamie – after a puncture but Hesjedal waited for him.
However the legs of the former Giro d’Italia champion soon went as they began the ascent, prompting Rolland to launch a solo attack in his bid to rack up more climbing points.
He reached the summit of Col de Tamie first, with an advantage of 1’48”, to move onto 93 points and into third in the King of the Mountains classification.
Hesjedal, meanwhile, was caught by the pursuing riders who were led over the summit by Romain Sicard and soon set about reeling in Rolland’s lead.
They gained on the descent, but Rolland’s superior climbing saw him move two minutes ahead as he crested the penultimate climb of the day to bag ten more points, moving one behind Froome.
Nieve led the pursuing group over the summit to take eight points for himself and move level with Quintana in the race for the maillot a pois on 97 points.
Much of the work in the pursuing group was done by Jerome Coppel and Daniel Navarro (both Cofidis), with Navaro climbing into the top ten of the GC at the end of the day.
Back in the peloton, many of the initial escapees – including Hesjedal – were swallowed as Saxo-Tinkoff, led by Irishman, Nicolas Roche, upped the pace.
The move saw the bunch thinned, with Froome losing several team-mates as a result, but all of the GC contenders remained together.
The pace, which Saxo-Tinkoff maintained for some time, had to be dropped however as a heavy storm on the final mountain made riding conditions difficult.
At the front Navarro attempted to attack from the chasers but he was soon reeled in, before Costa made his own attempt, which stuck.
Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Belisol), Jan Bakelants and Andreas Kloden (both RadioShack-Leopard), and Navarro attempted to catch him, but once again the 26-year-old had timed his attack to perfection.
Costa flew down the descent and soloed through the finish line in Le Grand-Bornand in almost a repeat of Tuesday’s victory.
Back in the peloton, Froome survived a late attack by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Quintana and Contador to keep the maillot jaune firmly in his grasp with two stages to go.
Tour de France 2013 – stage 19 – result
1 Rui Costa (POR) Movistar in 5:59:01hrs
2 Andreas Klöden (GER) RadioShack-Leopard +48″
3 Jan Bakelants (BEL) RadioShack-Leopard +1’44”
4 Alexandre Geniez (FRA) FDJ.fr +1’52”
5 Daniel Navarro Garcia (ESP) Cofidis +1’55”
6 Bart De Clercq (BEL) Lotto-Belisol +1’58”
7 Robert Gesink (NED) Belkin Pro Cycling Team +2’03”
8 Alessandro De Marchi (ITA) Cannondale +2’05”
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi +2’16”
10 Ruben Plaza (ESP) Movistar +2’44”
1 Chris Froome (GBR) Sky in 76:12:25hrs
2 Alberto Contador (ESP) Team Saxo-Tinkoff +5’11”
3 Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar +5’32”
4 Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Team Saxo Tinkoff +5’44”
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha +5’58”
6. Bauke Mollema (NED) Belkin +8’58”
7. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) Astana +9’33”
8. Daniel Navarro (ESP) Cofidis +12’33”
9. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar +14’56”
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +16’08”