Demi Vollering powered through the mountain-top fog on Saturday to win the most demanding stage in the women's Tour de France and grab the leader's yellow jersey.
Vollering, seventh overnight, pulled away in the final 6km of the 17km final climb in the Pyrenees to take the yellow jersey from team-mate Lotte Kopecky.
The Dutch rider leads the overall standings by 1min 50sec from Kasia Niewiadoma, who was second in the stage. Defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten is third, but 2min 28sec back with only Sunday's 22.6km eighth-stage time trial to come.
? Relive the last KM, with ???? @demivollering claiming the stage victory and the lead on the general classification!
? Revivez le dernier KM et la victoire de ???? @demivollering qui s'empare du @MaillotjauneLCL !#TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @GoZwift pic.twitter.com/9YeoPlwzvg— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 29, 2023
Vollering started the short but brutal Pyrenean stage more than a minute behind race leader and Worx team-mate Kopecky and 12sec behind Dutch rider Van Vleuten.
The trio were part of an elite group that pulled clear on the first of two tough climbs, the Col d'Aspin.
Niewiadoma attacked first.
"I could see that Demi didn't want to work with Annemiek, so I knew that they would look at each other and I decided to take my chance on the downhill," the Polish rider said.
Vollering said she had been happy to let Niewiadoma go.
"Annemiek said to me, 'If we don't both ride, we'll both lose'. I said, 'That's fine with me'. It wasn't up to me to ride. I still had team-mates with me."
With less than 6km to go on the final foggy 17km final ascent of the Tourmalet, Vollering set off in pursuit, quickly passing the Pole.
"Demi showed how strong she is when she passed me," said Niewiadoma. Vollering powered away.
"I went full gas to the finish. I felt good," she said. "I kept on pushing."
She battled slowly across the finish line standing on her pedals, a shadow in the mist silhouetted by the headlights of a cortege of officials vehicles.
Niewiadoma finished second 1min 58sec behind. Van Vleuten wobbled across the line at 2:34 in third place.
"I came up against an opponent who was better than me and I didn't have a great day. But even if I'd had an exceptional day, I wouldn't have beaten Demi. She was on another level," said Van Vleuten.
Vollering who had plopped on the tarmac panting, rose to her feet beaming to embrace team-mate Kopecky, who had finished sixth.
"This is why we came here, to win the Tour with Demi," said Kopecky. "I think the way she did it, she showed she is the best. I wanted to enjoy my last day in yellow...But it was pretty painful."
?? The rankings after today's stage // Les classements après l'étape du jour ??#TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @GoZwift pic.twitter.com/PfAyyqiv7h— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 29, 2023