French rider Pierrick Fedrigo gave the hosts their fourth win of the Tour de France when he beat American Christian Vande Velde to win the 158.5 km 15th stage between Samatan and Pau yesterday.
Race leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain and the main peloton came over the finish line nearly 12 minutes behind a five-man breakaway that had fought hard to form in a frantic opening to the race.
Wiggins, who took the race lead at the end of stage seven, came under no threat during the undulating stage from the Gers department to the foot of the Pyrenees where the peloton will spend the race’s second rest day today.
The Team Sky leader still has a 2min 05sec lead over teammate Chris Froome, with Italian Vincenzo Nibali in third at 2:23 and Australian Cadel Evans fourth at 3:19.
Fedrigo attacked with 6.5 km remaining and after being countered by Vande Velde he dominated the Garmin rider in a two-up sprint for the finish.
It is the 33-year-old’s fourth victory in the race, but first since 2010 and his return to cycling after a six-month spell on the sidelines. It is also the second for his FDJ team after Thibaut Pinot won stage eighth in Porrentruy, Switzerland.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Fedrigo, whose last win on the race was in Pau in 2010.
“The last time I won on the Tour was here. When you’re racing the Tour, you need luck. And some days you just get the feeling it can be your day.
“The closer we got to the finish line, the more I believed in my chances.”
The race resumes tomorrow when the mountainous 197 km 16th stage takes the peloton over two unclassified and two category one climbs to a downhill finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon.