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
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