First big mountain stage on Thursday led the riders through five ascents (161km) towards the ski station of Pra Loup (Cat-2), via the Col d'Allos (Cat-1).

The Basque rider took a fine fourth spot after being the only man willing to respond a late attack by Chris Froome (SKY), always in pursuit of Romain Bardet (ALM) after the Frenchman opened a big gap with a move into the technical, narrow descent of the penulaimte ascent. Bardet reached the finish with almost 40" over his nearest rivals.

Four of the Movistar Team riders -Intxausti himself, Alejandro Valverde, Jonathan Castroviejo and José Herrada- started the last climb together after hard pacing from SKY reduced the group of GC contenders to about 30 strong. With ‘Castro’ and Herrada dropped after completing their duties -started by Dowsett and Sutherland before the last two ascents-, Valverde struggled to keep the front of the group and eventually dropped back with 3km from the end.

Beñat, in turn, was overtaken in his effort by Tejay van Garderen (BMC), new race leader, yet still jumps into 2nd place overall -17" back- with three other mountain stages to go. Friday will bring the Col du Rousset (Cat-1) with 51km from the uphill finish of Villard-de-Lans (Cat-3), prelude to the six rated climbs of Saturday's Queen stage.