Daniel Martinez triumphed on the queen stage of Paris-Nice as fellow Colombian Egan Bernal assumed the overall race lead from his Team Sky compatriot Michal Kwiatkowski.
The penultimate stage of the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour race saw riders faced with six climbs over the 181 kilometre route, with the final ascents of the Côte de Pelasque and Col de Turini expected to prove crucial.
An early breakaway group was gradually reduced to four riders over the climbs, with Martinez joined by Britain’s Simon Yates, France’s Nicolas Edet and fellow Colombian Miguel Ángel Lopez.
The quartet battled for the stage victory in the closing kilometres, each attempting an attack to secure victory.
Lopez appeared to have the upper hand but the Astana rider but had to settle for second place as Martinez came through to claim the stage.
The EF Education First rider crossed the line in a winning time of 4 hours 55min 49sec, Lopez ending six seconds down.
Edet and Yates faded to end 20 seconds adrift, the pair finishing third and fourth respectively.
Bernal crossed the line nearly four minutes behind the stage winner, but it proved enough to take the Team Sky rider into the race lead.
His team-mate Kwiatkowski was dropped in the closing kilometres, leading to the Polish rider relinquishing his position at the top of the standings.
Bernal boasts a 45 second advantage over second placed Philippe Gilbert of Belgium in the general classification, with Colombia’s Nairo Quintana following in third a further second behind.
Kwiatkowski slipped to fourth 63 seconds off the lead.
Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko claimed victory on the fourth stage in the other UCI WorldTour race currently running in Italy, the Tirreno-Adriatico.
He had appeared on course for a comfortable win on the 221km stage after launching a solo attack.
The Astana rider saw his advantage evaporate, though, after crashing twice in the closing kilometres.
Slovenia’s Primož Roglič, Britain’s Adam Yates and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang were able to draw level with Lutsenko, setting up a sprint finish.
Lutsenko proved able to recover from his crashes to secure the stage win in 5:16:29, ahead of Roglič and Yates.
The latter maintained his overall race lead with the Mitchelton-Scott rider seven seconds clear of Roglič.
The Netherlands’ Tom Dumoulin is 50 seconds behind the leader in third place.
The UCI Women’s WorldTour season is due continue tomorrow with the Ronde van Drenthe one-day race in The Netherlands.
A 165km route faces the riders, with the four climbs of the VAM Berg expected to challenge the contenders.
Defending champion Amy Pieters will chase another success in front of a home crowd, but could face competition from last year’s runner-up Alexis Ryan of the United States.