Pierrick Fedrigo claimed France's fourth win of the Tour de France on stage 15 to Pau today as the peloton opted for a day of respite.
Following an eventful race to date, including a 14th stage marred by sabotage, a six-man escape group contested the 158.5-kilometre route from Samatan and Fedrigo beat Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) in a sprint finish. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was third.
The Tour resumes following tomorrow's second rest day with Wednesday's 197km 16th stage from Pau to Bagners-de-Luchon, which is the first of two big Pyrenean days which will go a long way to deciding if Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins can become the first British winner in Paris on Sunday.
The peloton rode in 11 minutes 50 seconds behind, with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) winning the dash for the line on his 30th birthday.
The general classification contenders were safely among them and the top of the rankings were unchanged.
Wiggins retained the Tour leader's yellow jersey and a lead of 2mins 5secs over Team Sky colleague Chris Froome in second place.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) remained third, 2:23 behind, with defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) fourth, 3:19 adrift.
Five days of racing remain, but Wednesday and Thursday's Pyrenean stages and Saturday's penultimate day time-trial are set to determine the holder of the maillot jaune come the finale in Paris on Sunday.Wiggins required a bike change early on as the peloton recovered from yesterday's sabotage attack, when tacks thrown in the road resulted in a litany of punctures.
Wiggins - nicknamed Le Gentleman after his response to that incident, when he neutralised the peloton - received a new bike, complete with yellow handlebars and yellow paint, and was paced back to the main bunch by three Team Sky colleagues.
The opening was akin to wacky races as attempts to form a break took place and after a frenetic first 62km, five riders went clear.
Fedrigo (FDJ-Bigmat), Vande Velde, Voeckler (Europcar), Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) were up ahead and Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) bridged the gap to join them.
The escapees established a lead of nine minutes at the summit of the day's second categorised climb, the category three Cote de Simacourbe, which came 35km from the finish.
But still their advantage grew as the peloton began to climb and it appeared a stage which had been expected to end in a sprint finish was set to be decided by those in the breakaway.
Vande Velde and Fedrigo broke clear inside the final 8km, with the four others in pursuit.
The duo forged on, but Fedrigo had too much power for the American in the finishing straight to claim the fourth Tour stage success of his career. His most recent win came in Pau in 2010.
The success saw France draw level with Great Britain as the nation with the most wins at the 99th Tour.
World champion Mark Cavendish, who might have begun the day with victory in mind, was in the unusual position of leading the peloton under the 4km to go marker.
Cavendish's positioning was to help Wiggins stay out of trouble and the Manxman did not contest the sprint as Greipel beat Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and points classification leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) to the line.