Cadel Evans’ Tour de France title defence appeared to be in tatters on stage 16 as Bradley Wiggins sought to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey for a 10th day.
Australian Evans (BMC Racing) began the 197-kilometre route from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon three minutes 19 seconds behind Wiggins (Team Sky) with five days of racing remaining.
On the penultimate of four categorised climbs, the Col d’Aspin, Evans was unable to stay with the yellow jersey group as Ivan Basso increased the tempo.
Basso was working for fellow Italian and Liquigas-Cannondale leader Vincenzo Nibali, who began the day two minutes 23 seconds behind Wiggins.
Basso and Nibali led Wiggins’ group over the summit, 46.5km from the finish, to begin the descent towards the day’s final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, the top of which came 15.5km from the end of the stage.