Forty-eight hours after losing the yellow jersey, Lotto-Belisol rider Tony Gallopin claimed victory on Stage 11 of the 2014 Tour de France after a double attack in the closing kilometres from Besancon to Oyonnax.
The Frenchman hung on to finish just ahead of the chasing pack, who were all given the same time.
Gallopin launched his first attack on the descent of the final climb of Cote d'Echallon, with around 13 kilometres to go. He was caught by a select group of four that included green-jersey wearer Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo's Michael Rogers and Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
With Cannondale's Sagan the clear favourite to win a sprint finish, Gallopin went again with just 2.3 kilometres to go and held on over the flat to claim his first victory of the Tour.
The yellow-jersey group of Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, which contained all his rivals, swept up all but Gallopin ahead of the line, meaning there was little change in the overall standings.
Giant-Shimano sprinter John Degenkolb took second place, while Matteo Trentin of Omega Pharma-Quick Step claimed third.
|5||Simon Gerrans||Orica Greenedge||+0|
At the start of the day, the peloton reacted to all the usual attacks from the gun, before IAM Racing's Martin Elmiger, Cyril Lemoine of Cofidis and Anthony Delaplace of Bretagne got clear after 28 kilometres.
The trio stayed away until the first climb of the Category 3 Cote de Choux at 148.5 kilometres, when Delaplace and Lemoine were dropped by the champion of Switzerland.
Tinkoff-Saxo's Nicolas Roche then broke away from the yellow-jersey group to lead the charge to catch Elmiger. By the summit of the Cote de Desertin a five-man group, including Movistar's Jesus Herrada Lopez, Europcar's Cyril Gautier and Jan Bakelants of Omega Pharma-Quick Step had formed.
Tinkoff-Saxo rider Michael Morkov had revealed to letour.com before the start of the stage that the riders were now free to attack for stage wins after leader Alberto Contador retired on Stage 10:
"It totally changes our way of racing," Morkov said. "It's a new race for us. We'll try and go for stage wins, myself included. We have a lot of guys in the team who are fresh."
|2||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+2:23|
|7||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+3:56|
|8||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+3:57|
|10||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||Lotto||+4.18|
Irishman Roche clearly took that advice on board and rode clear from the remainder of the breakaway on the final climb over the Category 3 Cote d'Echallon to go for the solo victory, with around 20 kilometres to go.
However, Cannondale had different ideas and set the pace on the front in the hope that Sagan could claim his first stage of the Tour on the downhill finish into Oyonnax.
The Slovakian, who missed out on victory by just millimetres on Stage 7, didn't bother to compete for the intermediate sprint at Charcier, allowing German sprinters Andre Greipel (Lotto) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) to mop up the remaining points after the day's early breakaway had swept through.
It all came together with around 15 kilometres to go but Roche did claim the prize for the day's most combative rider, while Sagan again finished with nothing.
American Andrew Talansky was the last man on the road after deciding to quit the race with 60 kilometres to go. However, his directeur sportif persuaded the Dauphine winner to continue to the finish after a four-minute delay.
Earlier in the day, Trek rider Fabian Cancellara became the latest big name to withdraw from the Tour de France, per the BBC, after deciding to concentrate on his preparations for the world championships in Spain at the end of September.
Sagan might have more luck on Thursday's Stage 12, from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint Etienne, which has a similarly hilly finish and then another downhill run to the line. The Slovakian's Cannondale team could put Stage 11 down as a trial run and repeat their performance.
But the stage would also suit somebody like Orica Greenedge rider Gerrans, so expect the duo to be well in contention at the end of the 185.5-kilometre stage.