Australia's Richie Porte left previous leader Alexandre Vinokourov trailing in his wake as he snatched the lead in the Giro d'Italia yesterday after riders again suffered a drenching.
The 163-mile 11th stage, the longest of the three-week race, was so inundated with rain that the peloton wore wet weather jackets to protect them from the foul conditions which have dominated this year's extravaganza.
Nothing could stop a large breakaway group early on, however, and Astana's Vinokourov was stuck way down the field as new pink jersey holder Porte took up a position towards the front.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins was part of that breakaway group and eventually finished fourth to move himself back into contention for the overall title.
Porte, who had been sixth overall, suddenly has a one minute 42 second race lead over Spain's David Arroyo Duran of Caisse d'Epargne.
"It was a long, hard day. I had two team-mates who annihilated themselves for me. It's thanks to the team," Porte said. "This week Tasmania is showing itself to be the centre of cycling in Australia." Fellow Tasmanian Matt Goss won a stage earlier this week.
Kazakhstan's Vinokourov had led since stage seven but is remarkably now down in 12th spot almost 10 minutes adrift of Porte.
Russia's Evgueni Petrov of the Katusha team won the stage after pulling away late on and whipping off his ironically-worn sunglasses as he crossed the line in the rain. "I'm really happy. I want to say hello to my wife. I did it, I did it," he said.
The breakaway group's lead eventually extended to a colossal 17 minutes, leaving the main pack, which included Vinokourov, with too much to do to retain an overall advantage.
Porte was joined in the breakout by Wiggins and Cervelo's Carlos Sastre, with all three taking turns to keep the pace up.
David Millar was the first to make a break for stage win glory, but he was quickly swallowed up by his rivals. Germany's Linus Gerdemann held the lead entering the closing stages but Petrov eked out a large enough gap on the run to the uphill finish to prevail.
Dario Cataldo was second for Quick Step with Sastre and Wiggins next up.
Arroyo Duran and Robert Kiserlovski are now second and third in the general classification while Wiggins has now moved to within sight of the top 10.
The stage finished in the central Italian city of L'Aquila, devastated by a huge earthquake in April 2009, and passed through several villages which had also been hit. Many charity events connected to the Giro are taking place to raise money for the area.Reuse content