Lance Armstrong rode to victory on the 13th stage of the Tour de France, but failed to get his hands on the overall leader's yellow jersey.
The American set the pace up the final climb to Plateau de Beille and took the win on the line in a time of 6:04.38 ahead of Ivan Basso.
He made up yet more time on all his major rivals who were scattered down the road of the hors category climb.
Thomas Voeckler hung on to yellow by 22 seconds after coming home 4:42 down.
Sylvain Chavanel, Jens Voigt and Michael Rasmussen were at the front of the field for much of the 205.5km stage before Chavanel drifted off the lead on the fifth of the day's seven climbs.
Voigt and Rasmussen ploughed on, but with an advantage of only 3:15 coming to the foothills of the final hors category climb it was only a matter of time before they would be reeled in.
The 15km road to Plateau de Beille is a relentless ride and even in the foothills such established names as King of the Mountain leader Richard Virenque fell off the pace.
And as the US Postals maintained a quick tempo, yellow jersey wearer Voeckler slipped back, as did Amrstrong's main rival, Jan Ullrich.
The pair pushed hard to limit their losses, Voeckler in his attempts to hold on to yellow and Ullrich with an eye on the overall classification.
Armstrong had already been buoyed by the news that two of his major rivals were out of the running in the preliminary part of the day.
Tyler Hamilton pulled out with a back injury, while Iban Mayo, who had been tipped to star in the Pyrenees, struggled throughout.
With the peloton splintered, Armstrong was aided in a lead group of three by team-mate Jose Azevado, a scenario the American credited as "perfect team work".
And when Azevado fell back, his job done, Armstrong and Basso, as they had 24 hours earlier on the road to La Mongie, found themselves out in front alone.
The pair shared the work, winding through the crowds, until the final sprint when Armstrong broke for home, and arms aloft, celebrated a memorable victory.
With the American over the line all eyes turned to the road, and Voeckler's progress in particular.
Georg Totshcnig came in third at 1:05 with Andreas Kloden and Francsico Mancebo crossing the line at 1:27.
Ullrich was next home at 2:42 and then two minutes later a roar greeted the arrival of Voeckler, the French leader crossing the line with a celebratory punch and enough time to hold on to the overall lead.
But Armstrong is now within striking distance, just 22 seconds adrift, with Ivan Basso lying third at 1:39.
Of Armstrong's pre-race rivals Ullrich is the leading contender at just over seven minutes back. Mayo crossed the line almost 38 minutes down.
After two days in the mountains that have shaped the Tour, the riders will enjoy an easier day on Sunday when they tackle the 192.5 km from Carcassonne to Nimes.