One of the favourites for the Tour de France will wear the leader's yellow jersey when the race travels through west Essex and East London tomorrow after triumphing on today's second stage in Yorkshire.
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali launched a late attack to win the stage in Sheffield and claimed the lead in the General Classification.
Hundreds of thousands of people again lined the 201km route from York on a brutal and unpredictable day of racing.
Nibali (Astana), the 2013 Giro d'Italia champion, left it late but timed his bid to the line to perfection to secure victory ahead of a number of his rivals for the overall title.
He also claimed the race leader's maillot jaune, from stage one winner Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), who endured a difficult day.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had not travelled to Sheffield to view the stage but took to the front up the day's final climb, the brutally steep, 800m long Jenkin Road.
The Spaniard was unchallenged until, within sight of the summit, defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) stretched his legs.
The descent and run-in saw numerous attempts to break off the front, all of which floundered until Nibali burst clear inside the final 2km.
The Italian champion, nicknamed the Shark, bared his teeth and led by 50m under the flamme rouge at 1km to go and his rivals looked to each other to react.
World champion Rui Costa (Lampre) led the pursuit, with Froome on his wheel, but the lack of a coordinated chase ensured Nibali would win and he was able to celebrate a first Tour stage win of his career.
Belgian Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was second, two seconds behind, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) third.
Contador was 13th and Froome 19th, the Briton moving to fifth overall after his sixth-placed finish in Harrogate on day one.
Germany's Kittel relinquished the fabled yellow jersey without much of a defence on a challenging day for the sprinter in the Yorkshire countryside.
Kittel had a day to forget, finishing well adrift, but will chase a sixth Tour stage win in two editions in tomorrow's 155km third stage from Cambridge to The Mall in London.
The second day of racing in Yorkshire began with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) announcing his withdrawal following his crash in Harrogate.
The Manxman would not have relished a day as challenging as this, with nine categorised climbs to negotiate - five in the final 60km - and numerous more ascents in between.
Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Matthew Busche (Trek), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), David de la Cruz (NetApp), Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) initiated the day's break before Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Belisol) managed to latch on.
The escapees were caught with just under 60km to go as the riders ascended Holme Moss, the Tour's first category two climb.
Kadri broke clear and was pursued by Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) as Kittel slipped backwards.
Froome's chief lieutenant Richie Porte punctured approaching the climb and was dragged back to the pack by Bernhard Eisel and Danny Pate as Team Sky attempted to control the pace at the front of the peloton.
Kadri crested the summit first but the field came together on the Cote de Midhopestones, with Kittel more than five minutes adrift and his brief stay in the maillot jaune coming to an end.
Four more climbs were to follow, but the peloton stayed together to the summit of the penultimate climb when Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) surged clear.
Peraud was reluctant to work with his compatriot and was swept up before Rolland's lone attempt to stay away ended with 8km to go.
Jenkin Road came with just under 6km to go and that is where the race ignited.