Breakaway optimism gave way to frustration at the finish for the second day in a row for the hosts at the Tour de France on Sunday.
A two-man breakaway involving Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis and Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom turned into a four-man break when they were joined by compatriots Christophe Moreau and David Lelay at the 107km mark of the 164.5km stage. But in what turned out to be a thrilling finish, Chavanel - the last man standing - was sucked in following a futile dash for the finish line with 2.5km to race.
To add insult to injury, the hosts were left bickering over the reasons to their failure to hold off the peloton.
Moreau and Lelay had broke free of the chasing bunch on the Mur de Bretagne climb, and soon closed the gap to Chavanel and Voeckler, who was picking up points on the way for the 'King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey.
Moreau suggested that Voeckler's pursuit of the climber's jersey, which he is unlikely to keep for long, made no sense when they could have all worked together to battle between them for the stage.
"It's a shame that some people are too interested in picking up climber's points ... in the end we all failed," said Moreau, implicitly criticising Voeckler's failure to contribute to the quartet's relays in the finale.
Voeckler, who had been at the front for nearly the entire stage, retorted: "The reason why I couldn't relay was because I just didn't have anything left. Yesterday (Saturday) I was in front for most of the day. Those who know me known I'm not a shirker."
Chavanel, who has been by far the most successful French rider, with six wins, this season, picked up the consolation prize for being the day's most aggressive rider.
He has promised that it won't be the last time he goes on the attack, although resting up ahead of his next aim - Tuesday's time trial - is his priority.
"I stayed up at the front working all day for nothing at the end," said the 28-year-old Cofidis rider. "But that's cycling. On Tuesday you won't see a repeat. I will need to recuperate ahead of the time trial. I'm here to be a protagonist, and I want to win a stage."
© AFP 2008