Bradley Wiggins clung onto the yellow jersey this afternoon following another showdown between the main contenders.
Today’s 157.5kilometre stage featured seven climbs, culminating in a first-category climb just 16km from the finish in the Swiss town of Porrentruy.
The final climb, which reached gradients of up to 24 per cent, reduced the main bunch to a select group of contenders for the overall classification. Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Denis Menchov and Jurgen Van Den Broeck were all present in the pack of 10.
But even this most elite bunch of riders failed to close the gap on Tibaut Pinot, who at 22 is the Tour’s youngest rider. The Frenchman broke away from Fredrick Kessiakoff of Astana near the final summit.
Whilst Kessiakoff was later swept up by the chasing Tour favourites, plucky Pinot couldn’t believe his luck. The impressive solo effort secured France’s first stage win of the 2012 Tour.
Team FDJ’s general manager Marc Madiot found himself screaming out of his car window like a madman - the small French team had pulled off a shock win in the world’s largest bike race.
26seconds back, the main rivals entered a psychological battle. With less than 2.5km to go, Jurgen Van Den Broeck made a break for the finish line in search of valuable seconds.
Second-placed Cadel Evans soon joined him in the hunt for the yellow jersey, all too aware that a 11 second win over Bradley Wiggins would secure the overall lead.
“Opportunities don’t come easy in this line of work,” Evans said after the race. “So when they do come, you’ve got to grab them by the neck.”
But Wiggins wasn’t giving away opportunities that easily. The Briton soon closed the sizeable gap, stalking Evans closely to the finish line to ensure that no one in the group gained a second.
The very top of the overall classification remains unchanged, but will likely see slight alteration following tomorrow’s 41.5km individual time trial.