Pierrick Fedrigo has won the 15th stage of the Tour de France after the breakaway succeeded on a flat stage into Pau seemingly made for the sprinters.
The FDJ-BigMat rider made it into the successful escape of six and easily out-dragged Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) to the line after the two shook off their companions.
The win is the second for the FDJ team and the fourth for a Frenchman in the 2012 Tour on a day when bunch rolled in over 11 minutes down.
It was made all the more special for Fedrigo, whose 2011 season was blighted by Lyme’s Disease, as his last win in the Tour came two years ago into the same town.
Andre Greipel led the bunch home for seventh place after another Lotto-Belisol leadout, although Peter Sagan looks comfortable in green after picking up a batch of points in the intermediate sprint and sticking with the German in the final dash to the line.
With no change in the GC the contenders and their teams will now remain in Pau for the final rest day of the Tour before the queen Pyrenean stage of this year’s race rears its head on Wednesday.
Taking it easy before the rest day
It is not without good reason that the Sky team bus has been nicknamed the ‘Death Star’ after the omnipotent galactical space station of science fiction fame. Once again the British team were charged with controlling the race although a fast and furious first hour saw them resort to somewhat unconventional tactics.
Both Edvald Boassan Hagen and Bernhard Eisel could be seen with their arms outstretched at the head of the peloton, pleading with the more aggressive riders to let the break go and give the bunch a chance to slow.
Whether or not it was their place to do so, try telling the riders in the 14 teams without a stage win in this year’s Tour not to go on the attack. It took until the 62km mark for a final five to finally escape, although Nicki Sorensen needed a few more miles to finally bridge up and make it six.
Working well together they quickly built up a lead of six minutes as neither Sky nor the pure sprinters’ teams of Lotto-Belisol or Orica-GreenEdge were willing to give chase on the day before the final rest day.
At 20km to go, six had turned to 11 minutes and it was clear the winner would come from the break. After a few skirmishes Fedrigo made the strongest move with Vande Velde latched onto his wheel.
Once the four behind had given up the chase it was all but certain the Frenchman would beat his American rival, and the FDJ man duly obliged.
Tour de France 2012, stage 15: Samatan – Pau, 158.5km
1. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ-BigMat in 3-36-34
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Sharp s.t.
3. Nicki Sorensen (Den) SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank at 12 secs
4. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar s.t.
5. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 21 secs
6. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis at 1-08
7. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol at 11-50
8. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp s.t.
9. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale s.t.
10. Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM s.t.
Overall classification after stage 15
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky in 59-32-32
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2-23
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 3-19
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 4-48
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Radioshack-Nissan at 6-15
7. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 6-57
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 7-30
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 8-31
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 8-51
Pierrick Fedrigo wins in Pau
Bradley Wiggins pulls on the yellow jersey, his lead unchallenged for another day
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Evans suffers multiple punctures after Tour tack attack
Froome: Not winning this year’s Tour is ‘very great sacrifice’
Frank Schleck criticises ‘boring’ Tour de France
Wiggins: Cycling’s new ‘boss’?
Wiggins still Sky’s main man as Tour heads towards Pyrenees
Millar’s Tour win comes after ‘second chance’
Froome explains his attack on La Toussuire
Nibali fails to crack Sky but pleased with Tour mountains performance
Roche ready to achieve career-long Tour top ten ambition
Wiggins: ‘I’m not some s**t rider that’s come from nowhere
Nibali hits out at Wiggins after Tour frustration
Cavendish enjoying new Tour role
Wiggins taking nothing for granted in ‘dream scenario’
Sky keeping Tour focus on Wiggins
Di Gregorio arrested by police at Tour de France
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank’s Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour’s time trials
CW’s Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 14 gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Stage 10 live coverage
Stage nine live coverage
Stage six live coverage
Stage five live coverage
Stage four live coverage
Stage three live coverage
Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule
Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever