PAU, France – Pierrick Fedrigo of France won Monday’s 15th stage of the Tour de France by leading a two-man final breakaway, while Bradley Wiggins kept the overall lead as he stayed with his rivals in the main pack far behind.
The 158.5-kilometer route from Samatan to Pau had a mostly flat layout, but teams with strong sprinters didn’t try to chase down the breakaway riders as fatigue kicked in following a fast start.
Fedrigo, of the FDJ-BigMat team, collected his fourth Tour stage victory by leaving a group of six riders with about 6.5 kilometers left, with only Garmin-Sharp member Christian Vande Velde of the United States able to stay close.
Vande Velde made a brief burst to try to outsprint Fedrigo in the last 200 meters, but his rival accelerated to the line to become the fourth French rider to win a stage this Tour.
“It’s incredible ... the stars need to be aligned,” said Fedrigo, whose last Tour stage win was also in Pau two years ago. “There are days when things go like that.”
Fedrigo said the victory was especially satisfying because he was sidelined for six months last year after suffering from tick-borne Lyme disease.
Vande Velde said he had little hope of winning the sprint because of his inexperience in such finishes.
“I knew my chances were not good at all with Fedrigo, he is really quick guy and has got a much better sprint,” said Vande Velde, who wore the Giro d’Italia leader’s pink jersey for a day in 2008.
“I’ve never had a sprint (victory) – ever,” said Vande Velde, who is 36.
“I’ve always been a slow-twitch guy. But I’m still happy with my ride. I wish there was a hill to finish it up on, but that’s the way it goes.”
Wiggins finished 11 minutes, 50 seconds behind Fedrigo in the main pack.
Overall, he leads second-place teammate Christopher Froome by 2:05. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is third, 2:23 behind, while defending champion Cadel Evans remains fourth, 3:19 back. — AP