Frank Schleck of Luxembourg powered away with two kilometres left to claim the showcase stage of the Tour de France at the summit of L'Alpe d'Huez on Tuesday.
The CSC rider crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of Italian Damiano Cunego (Lampre) at the end of the 13.9-km, lung-busting ascent with an average gradient of 7.9 percent.
Italian Stefano Garzelli (CSC) won the sprint between the chasing group for third, ahead of American Floyd Landis (Phonak), who reclaimed the yellow jersey from Spaniard Oscar Pereiro.
German Andreas Kloeden (T-Mobile) was fifth in the same time as Landis.
Pereiro finished 14th in the 187-km stage, 2:49 off the pace and is 10 seconds behind Landis in the overall standings.
The first of three successive stages in the Alps included the Col d'Izoard and the Col du Lautaret climbs as well as the Alpe d'Huez ascent, but failed to prove decisive in the search for a successor to retired seven-times
Frenchman Cyril Dessel, Russia's Denis Menchov, Spaniard Carlos Sastre, Kloeden and Australian Cadel Evans are less than three minutes off the pace.
World Champion Tom Boonen pulled out 59 km from the finish at the foot of the Col du Lautaret. The Belgian wore the yellow jersey for four days but did not win a stage after being constantly outsprinted by green jersey holder Robbie McEwen.
After riding through a storm, a group of 15 reached the 21-hairpins of the Alpe d'Huez ascent with a 3:20 lead over the peloton, which was led by Pereiro, Landis and Kloeden.
Landis and Kloeden started catching the escapees and dropped their rivals for the overall win one by one but despite several attacks, their battle behind Schleck and Cunego turned into a stalemate.
It will resume in Wednesday's 182-km 16th stage from Bourg d'Oisans to La Toussuire.