The day after almost crashing out of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans kept his rivals at bay to take command of the race in the first big mountain battle on Monday.
The Australian finished the 156-km 10th stage from Pau to the Pyrenean resort of Hautacam in eighth place two minutes and 17 seconds behind Italian Leonardo Piepoli, who snatched his maiden win on the Tour.
Silence-Lotto's Evans, however, controlled the race's big guns with the exception of Frank Schleck, third in the stage 28 seconds behind Piepoli, and Spain's Juan Jose Cobo, who was second in the same time as the Italian.
Luxembourg champion Schleck of the CSC team is now second overall just one second behind Evans as the 169-strong peloton prepares to enjoy a rest day.
One of the main threats to Evans might now come from twice Vuelta (Tour of Spain) champion Denis Menchov, fifth overall 57 seconds behind.
"Yesterday, after the crash, I thought the Tour was over for me," Evans told reporters.
"I had the scare of my life, I was a bit shocked and scared yesterday. I had a lot of bruising, swelling, but I was very well looked after by the team. The team doctor patched me up from ankle to neck."
Last year's runner-up Evans crashed midway through Sunday's ninth stage, sustaining cuts and bruises on his left side and damaging his shoulder.
Two intimidating climbs dented the hopes of Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego after the duo crossed the line almost six minutes behind Saunier-Duval rider Piepoli.
Spain's Carlos Sastre, Menchov, Italian Riccardo Ricco and American Christian Vande Velde, third overall 38 seconds behind, crossed the line with Evans.
Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, who started the day in the yellow jersey, finished 4:19 behind Piepoli and dropped to seventh overall.
On Bastille Day, France's Remy Di Gregorio showed a lot of courage when he joined an eight-rider breakaway before going solo on the out-of-category Col du Tourmalet.
First to attack the peloton were the Saunier-Duval team, who cranked up the pace as the sprinters predictably started to suffer. The CSC riders took over from Ricco's team mates to set the pace midway through the ascent.
Cunego and Valverde fell behind three kilometres from the summit and started the descent with a 45-second deficit.
A favourites' group of 17 featuring Kirchen, Evans, Ricco, Menchov, Sastre and the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy, went down to the valley at breakneck speed, reaching 90 kph.
With the help of two team mates, Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne team and Lampre's Cunego came back to within five seconds of the yellow jersey pack in the valley.
But Swiss Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt rode a stunning team time trial for CSC that buried the Spanish champion and the former Giro d'Italia winner.
It also meant that Di Gregorio, on his own against the wind, was to be swallowed up after beginning the final 14.4-km ascent to Hautacam with a 30-second advantage over the favourites.
Cancellara and Voigt soon pulled over, then Kirchen and Andy Schleck were quickly dropped but the elder Schleck, Frank, showed no mercy, stepping up another gear and taking Cobo and Piepoli with him.
The Saunier-Duval riders left Schleck three kilometres from the finish with Piepoli being rewarded for helping team mate Ricco to two stage wins with his own victory.