Pierrick Fedrigo of the Bbox-Bouygues team won the 16th stage of the Tour de France in Pau on Tuesday to hand the hosts their sixth stage win of the race.
Race leader Alberto Contador, who took the yellow jersey from Luxembourg rival Andy Schleck on Monday, came over the finish line just under seven minutes later.
Schleck, who lost the yellow jersey on Monday after suffering a mechanical problem, was expected to launch a challenge to Contador on what was the third and penultimate day of racing in the Pyrenees. However, their anticipated battle over the Tourmalet and Aubisque mountain passes did not materialise.
The Luxembourger, who rides for Saxo Bank, is still 08sec behind Spain's two-time champion ahead of the race's second and final rest day and two days before the final day of climbing on stage 17.
Fedrigo had been part of an early breakaway that formed inside the first kilometres as the peloton started the hilly 199.5km ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon with the brutal 11km climb to the Col de Peyresourde. And he was rewarded for his persistence on another punishing day in the Pyrenees by beating an eight-man bunch, which included seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, in a sprint at the finish line.
"I knew it was going to be my day," said Fedrigo, who handed his team their second win of the race after Thomas Voeckler's impressive victory on stage 15 on Monday. "I felt something this morning that it was going to be my day. It's just little details, like seeing fans of the team and some family, but I knew I just had to go for it."
Armstrong had been among the first riders to attack early on the stage and although their group was larger it was eventually reduced to nine riders as the climbs took their toll.
They went on to build a lead of almost 10 minutes on the yellow jersey peloton, with Schleck showing no signs of taking revenge on Contador after the Spaniard attacked him shortly after his mechanical setback on stage 15.
At the front of the race, Spaniard Carlos Barredo launched an audacious bid for a maiden win when he attacked moments after Frenchman Sandy Casar had closed his deficit on the downhill from the Col d'Aubisque.
FDJ rider Casar, who had shown his finishing skills on a similar profile to win stage nine, had lost ground with the frontrunners on the race's fourth categorised climb, the Col de l'Aubisque. But after he made up his gap of 1min 35sec on the descent, Barredo, perhaps sensing the danger, attacked with 45km to go and had built a lead of around 45sec with 28km to race.
His advantage was never enough to hold off the eight riders he had spent most of the day with, and when they began to seriously exchange relays in a headwind the Spaniard was in imminent danger. Agonisingly for the little Quick Step rider, he was reeled in at the red flag indicating one kilometre to race.
Armstrong, who had been resting his legs for most of the last few kilometres, made a brief bid for the stage win in the final 500 metres. However Fedrigo dropped down a cog or two and maintained his power to surge ahead and beat Casar at the finish line.
© AFP 2010
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