Chris Froome moved into the race leader's yellow jersey at the Tour de France after obliterating all of his main rivals in a sensational victory on stage eight.

The 28-year-old Briton attacked just under 5km out from the summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines and went on to win by 51 seconds from Richie Porte, who completed a Team Sky one-two with an equally impressive display.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dug deep to take third, 1min 8sec adrift, but Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) could not match Froome's imperious performance and crossed the line eighth, 1min 45sec behind.

Cadel Evans (BMC) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) were also blown away, finishing more than four minutes and two minutes down respectively as they too failed to live with Team Sky's electric climbing.

Driving seat

The result means Froome is now in pole position to succeed Sir Bradley Wiggins and become Britain's second consecutive Tour winner.

He entered the race as the overwhelming favourite and fully justified that status with a exhilirating show of strength in the Pyrenees that will live long in the memory.

Porte's relentless pace on the lower slopes of the 7.8km, category-one climb to Ax 3 Domaines had reduced the front group to just five men - himself, Froome, Contador, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde - and sensing his rivals were struggling under the strain, Froome seized the moment by launching an attack just as breakaway rider Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was being caught by the quintet.

Quintana, who had attacked brilliantly on the day's penultimate climb, the hors-categorie Col de Pailheres, briefly tried to follow, but Froome's injection of speed was too fierce and the Colombian was soon dropped.

While Froome swiftly opened up a healthy gap at the head of the race, Contador was suffering badly and by the 3km-to-go banner, the second favourite for overall victory was already a minute behind.

Valverde limits losses

With his team duties done, Porte turned attention to riding for second place and had little trouble in also dropping the chasers, with only Valverde offering up any sort of challenge.

The Spaniard fought gamely to reduce his arrears to Froome and Porte, but back down the road, Contador continued to wilt.

The 2007 and 2009 Tour winner was in such poor condition in the closing kilometres that he was caught and passed by a handful of riders, while team-mate Kreuziger repeatedly had to wait for him.

Belkin duo Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam climbed superbly to take fourth and fifth on the stage respectively.

The outcome saw Froome also take the lead of the mountains classification, while Quintana moved into the best young rider's white jersey.

Stage eight result

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 5:03:18
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, +51secs
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +1:08
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, +1:10
5 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin, +1:16
6 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi, +1:34
7 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff, +1:45
8 Alberto Contador (Fra) Saxo-Tinkoff, same time
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
10 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi, st
Selected other
26 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +4:13

General classification

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 32:15:55
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, +51secs
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +1:25
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, +1:44
5 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin, +1:50
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff, +1:51
7 Alberto Contador (Fra) Saxo-Tinkoff, +1:51
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:02
9 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +2:31
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) Saxo-Tinkoff, +2:40

Other jerseys

- Green (points classification): Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
- Polka dot (mountains classification): Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky
- White (best young rider): Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar