Italian Rinaldo Nocentini retained the Tour de France yellow jersey on Sunday as Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo won the race’s ninth stage held over 160.5km from Saint Gaudens to Tarbes.
Fedrigo, who rides for the Bbox-Bouygues team, handed the hosts their third stage victory from this year’s race after outsprinting breakaway companion Franco Pellizotti at the finish line.
It was Fedrigo’s second stage win on the world's biggest bike race having claimed his maiden win in 2006, and he admitted he had been wise enough to study the technical finish to the stage.
“Thankfully I had a look at the stage finish so I knew there was a bend not far from the finish. Once he attacked I made sure I jumped on his wheel, especially as there was a bit of a headwind,” said Fedrigo.
The main peloton containing all the race favourites came over the finish line 34secs later having failed to close the gap to the leading pair on the 70.1km descent leading from the summit of the Col du Tourmalet to Tarbes.
On the third and final day in the Pyrenees and ahead of the race's first rest day on Monday, there appeared to be a truce in the yellow jersey battle which allowed Nocentini to keep his 6 seconds lead on Spain's 2007 champion Alberto Contador.
Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, Contador's Astana teammate, is still in third place overall at 8 seconds in arrears.
Fedrigo is the third French rider to triumph so far after teammate Thomas Voeckler in Perpignan on the fifth stage and Agritubel's Brice Feillu on the seventh stage. However the 30-year-old admitted he had to fight off the threat from the chasing peloton.
“I knew that if we went over the summit with only four or five minutes we'd find it hard to go all the way,” said Fedrigo.
“We really had to go for it and work together to keep our lead.”