After lighting a fire under the 100th Tour de France on Saturday, Chris Froome proved himself equally adept at putting them out as Ireland's Dan Martin won his first Tour stage on a thrilling day on stage nine in the Pyrenees.
Froome was left to fight a defensive battle alone after the famed Sky train came off the rails on the first of the day's five categorised climbs.
He got out of the saddle at least half a dozen times to cover attacks off the front, playing a fascinating game of cat and mouse as Movistar's Nairo Quintana kicked out four times in the space of two kilometres on the final climb, the category one Hourquette d'Ancizan, before quickly being hauled back in each time.
As that squabble went on, Martin moved clear along with Jakob Fuglsang to take the long descent to Bagneres-de-Bigorre alone, with the Garmin-Sharp man winning in a short sprint to the line.
Froome's chief lieutenant Richie Porte had been dropped as part of Sky's troubles, eventually finishing more than 10 minutes down as Valverde moved into second place in the general classification, one minute and 25 seconds behind Froome.
Belkin's Bauke Mollema has moved up into third place overall, one minute 44 seconds back while Contador is lurking in sixth, a further seven seconds off the pace.
If Froome had dazzled with the brilliant way in which he seized control of the Tour on the climb to Ax 3 Domaines on Saturday, Sunday's ride was equally impressive as he fought a lone battle amid a pack of predators.
On Saturday, Porte and Peter Kennaugh played the key roles in delivering Froome to the front but they both went missing on the first of the five categorised climbs.
Kennaugh went in spectacular fashion, tumbling down an embankment after falling close to the side of the road and then emerging with extensive cuts on his arms. Porte disappeared in less dramatic but equally alarming fashion, dropped on the first climb and, despite a big push on the category one Col de Peyresourde midway through the stage, he faded badly over the final two climbs of the day.