Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez claimed his maiden Tour de France victory when he took the seventh stage with a bold solo attack in the finale of a 159-km ride from Brioude to Aurillac on Friday.
The Caisse d'Epargne rider attacked on the descent of the Col de St Jean de Donne and never looked back, beating Germany's Stefan Schumacher by six seconds.
The German won the sprint among the chasing group to finish second ahead of Italian Filippo Pozzato.
Sanchez pointed to the sky at his moment of triumph in memory of his brother, who died three years ago in a quad bike accident.
"I dedicate this victory to my brother, my parents, and to my team. We are a big family, a great team and I am sure that we can win the Tour", he told reporters.
Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen retained the overall leader's yellow jersey after finishing in Schumacher's group.
"We defended it very well and I'll have it for another day tomorrow," said the Team Columbia rider.
"I have a lot of confidence and this morning I had recuperated very well."
Kirchen leads Australian Cadel Evans by six seconds in the overall standings, with Schumacher third 16 seconds adrift.
Sanchez's leader in the Caisse d'Epargne team, Alejandro Valverde, crossed the line fifth and moved up to sixth overall.
Italy's Damiano Cunego, who was one of the favourites for the overall victory, suffered in the last ascent of the day and lost 33 seconds to Kirchen, dropping to 17th overall.
French riders, who had been on the attack since the race left Brest last Saturday, suffered a bad day, with former French champion Christophe Moreau, Lilian Jegou and John Gadret pulling out injured.
Jegou, who hit a tree after 67km, was taken to the St Flour hospital with a fractured wrist, organisers said, adding he would have a scan later on Friday after suffering concussion.
About 100km from the line the peloton split following the crash suffered by Cunego and Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha, who quickly went back into the main bunch.
On a nervous day, several breakaway attempts, including two from Briton David Millar, were controlled by the peloton.
The last breakaway was launched at the base of the category two Col d'Entremont by Sanchez, joined by fellow Spaniards David de la Fuente and Josep Jufre Pou and Italian Vincenzo Nibali.
Schumacher, who lost the yellow jersey following a crash on Thursday, attacked the peloton in the Cote de St Jean de Donne.
Cunego did not resist and was dropped in the first slopes of the ascent while De La Fuente earned the polka dot jersey for the best climber by crossing the summit line in first place.
The breakaway was then caught by Schumacher and the favourites' group but Sanchez, whose other brother Antonio plays football for Spanish second division side Levante, attacked again on the descent and easily won.
The peloton, which started from Brest with 180 riders, went down to 171 men as Sweden's Magnus Backstedt of the Garmin-Chipotl team was eliminated after finishing too late.