Chris Froome expected to lose the yellow jersey again when he needed a wheel change at a critical moment of yesterday’s stage 15 of the Tour de France.

While Dutchman Bauke Mollema was soloing to victory in Le Puy-en-Velay, Froome was putting himself into the red to chase down his rivals on the steep inclines of the Col de Peyra Taillaide.

The three-time Tour winner broke a spoke on his rear wheel just at the moment that Romain Bardet’s AG2R La Mondiale team had upped the pace on the approach to the imposing climb.

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With less than 30 seconds covering the top four in the general classification, Froome saw his race lead slipping away as Sky team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski frantically switched the rear wheels on their bikes.

“That was extremely stressful,” Froome said. “It was panic stations. I really thought that could be the yellow jersey changing shoulders again after today’s stage.”

Sergio Henao and Mikel Nieve paced Froome up the early inclines, but after they pulled off he had to go alone before Landa dropped back from the front group to finish the job still three kilometres from the summit of the 8.3km climb.

Froome said he was in attack mode as he tried to get back on, riding solo through hostile crowds who made their preference for local boy Bardet clear.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time,” added Froome, who lost the race lead on Thursday before reclaiming it in Rodez on Saturday, 18 seconds clear of Italian Fabio Aru and 23 ahead of Bardet.

“The speed was probably at the highest point in the race coming to the foot of the climb.

“If I didn’t get back in I wouldn’t expect to be in yellow any more this evening. I had to get back by the top of that climb or it was game over for me.”

Froome was keen to thank all of his team-mates for their help, but it was the sight of Landa dropping back which was most notable.

The Spaniard, widely expected to leave Sky in the winter, started the day fifth overall with lingering questions over where his loyalties might lie, but after helping Froome he would lose a place in the general classification to dent his own podium hopes.

“All the team did nice work,” Landa said. “Chris had a mechanical problem, we had a difficult moment but we worked like a team to save the day. Chris has a lot of experience and team-mates around him. We stayed calm and resolved the situation.”

The main group of contenders marked each other over the rolling final kilometres, but Irishman Dan Martin was allowed to pull clear with around eight kilometres left and claw back more time.

The Quick-Step Floors rider, still feeling the effects of a stage nine crash, picked up 13 seconds to move above Landa into fifth, now 72 seconds off yellow. Colombian Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale-Drapac sits fourth, 29 seconds down.

“I knew it was a lot of downhill to the finish, so I knew if I got a gap it would be difficult to come back,” Martin said. “So yeah I took advantage of the opportunity, I saw the opening and went.”