Cadel Evans left behind his worries over a knee injury to seize the reins of the Tour de Romandie in the penultimate stage, a wind-affected 20.1-km individual time trial on Saturday.
The Australian 2009 world champion finished only eighth behind five-times American time-trial champion David Zabriskie, who was lucky to start early in the afternoon when the weather was milder.
It was, though, enough for Evans to move to top spot overall with an 18-second lead over Germany's Tony Martin. Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov lay third, a further second behind.
Zabriskie, winner of a Tour de France prologue in 2005, beat two master time-trial riders, Australian Richie Porte and Dutchman Lieuwe Westra, but his stage victory at 43 kph, in 27 minutes 57 seconds, hardly mattered for the final outcome of the five-day Swiss race.
While yellow jersey holder Pavel Brutt of Russia soon drifted out of contention on a hilly, tricky course, the fight for the overall podium was between Evans, Martin and Vinokourov.
Of the three, Martin was fastest on the bumpy roads around the park of Signal de Bougy, finishing fifth in 28.24.
The Paris-Nice winner said the headwind had made his ride hard.
"I'm really disappointed. The weather conditions obviously favoured two riders, Evans and Vino," he said.
Evans made the best of the conditions, losing only 18 seconds to Martin despite taking part in his first race since being sidelined by a knee injury in March.
Vinokourov lost ground on the final part of the stage to finish 22nd and drop to third overall.
"It's a pleasant surprise. If you had seen the state of my knee one month ago, you would never have thought I could be here today. I'm happy just to be back," said Evans, who won the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico in March before injury struck.
Yet the Australian, who snatched his first major win in Romandie five years ago, said Martin and Vinokourov should not be ruled out in Sunday's 164.6-km final stage to Geneva.
"Remember the Tour de France in 2005 when Vino won the last stage on the Champs-Elysees? It's a good old speciality of his and he showed yesterday just what he could do," said Evans about the Kazakh's stage win in Neuchatel the previous day.
Zabriskie was delighted with his first major stage win for a long time. "I'm just overjoyed. I recently changed my position on the bike. I was all cramped up, now I can breathe better.
"Hopefully I'm on the way up and I can be more consistent," he said.