Leading by 3:09 heading into the stage, Froome lost time, 30-seconds to the rider, Nairo Quintana who sits in second place in the overall standings.

“It is a dream to win at l’Alpe d’Huez but I’ll race for the yellow jersey”. Attacking on the Col de la Croix de Fer had always been part of their race plan. “I was just in a tunnel mode at that point, just following the wheels.”.

Froome was abused by a roadside spectator, but the gesture seemed only to spur him on as he rejoined the bunch and remonstrated with Valverde for his untimely attack as Nibali forged on alone in pursuit of Rolland.

The incident was reminiscent of that on the 2010 Tour when Alberto Contador attacked Andy Schleck as the Luxembourg rider, then wearing the yellow jersey, had problems with his chain.

The dispute with Nibali wasn’t Froome’s only problem on Friday.

“I had goosebumps”, he said.

Nibali said he was “very disappointed” at the way Froome spoke to him at the finish with language “too hard and too unjust to be repeated”.

Earlier on Friday, Nibali salvaged a piece of his Tour by claiming his first stage victory of the race.

“When the race is going on, there are problems, like when [Alberto] Contador crashed the other day”. He showed great bike-handling skill on the Allos descent, where he whizzed in single-file with three of them, each kicking out knees on the twisting, narrow bends. “Also, today, I didn’t hear any info on [race radio]”.

The defending Tour champion sped away from a group of race leaders and overtook breakaway riders with an impressive 16-kilometer (10-mile) solo effort up the final climb.

He has been subject to innuendo, abuse and interrogation in this Tour and was doused in urine during stage 14 to Mende.

At the finish, “I told him exactly what I thought of him”, Froome said.

“Last year we had an incredible Tour”. Froome, who has vehemently denied suggestions of doping by some commentators, had urine thrown at him, while colleague Richie Porte was punched.

“It was up the Col du Glandon, pretty close to the summit, I suddenly felt like my back wheel locked up”, Froome told reporters.

Warren Barguil (Giant) will also be keen to work his way back into the top 10.

“It nearly feels like I just want to disappear right now”, said a despondent Van Garderen.

Froome says he believed the suspicions have been mainly in social media, adding “surely they don’t come from nowhere – the technology exists”.

The Tour de France returns to the climb of Pra-Loup on Wednesday afternoon, stage 17 of 2015 Tour. It’s the final test in terms of the general classification. “I tried to descend as well as I could, but at the bottom of the climb I had to change back to one of my own bikes to minimize the losses”.

“I can’t wait to get up (Alpe-d’Huez) now”.

Nibali, who looked back several times, took advantage by launching an immediate attack even though attacking the yellow jersey when it has a mechanical is seen as unfair. “People need to remember that”, he said.

“All the riders are a bit nervous before that climb because we know the crowd has been partying there for a few nights already”.

He rode in more than two minutes after Froome. I was hoping it would come Monday.

“Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail”.