Lance Armstrong missed out on the yellow jersey by a fraction as Frenchman Thomas Voeckler timed his move to perfection to clinch a maiden Tour de France win after an early breakaway surprised the sprinters' teams.
|Voeckler crosses the line [AFP]
Bouygues Telecom rider Voeckler attacked a group of breakaway riders with less than five kilometres to go in the 196.5km fifth stage from Cap d'Agde to Perpignan and crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Russian Mikhail Ignatiev.
'Ceased to believe'
"I waited for so long for this to happen I had almost ceased to believe in my chances to win a Tour stage," Voeckler said on Wednesday.
Briton Mark Cavendish won the peloton sprint to take third place, also seven seconds adrift of Voeckler, according to provisional results.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader's yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack and still leads American Armstrong by a fraction of a second.
Frenchmen Anthony Geslin and Voeckler, Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich, Dutchman Albert Timmer, Ignatiev and Poland's Marcin Sapa broke away in the early stages and built a maximum gap of
Cavendish's Columbia team took control of the peloton too late and despite getting help from Agritubel and Garmin-Slipstream they failed to catch the breakaway group.
Dutch climber Robert Gesink crashed in the descent of the Col de Treilles.
He quickly got back on to his bike but despite the help of two teammates, failed to catch the peloton.
With the wind blowing sideways, Cancellara's Saxo Bank stepped up a gear around 62km from the finish.
Giro winner Denis Menchov failed to keep up the pace but later rejoined the leading pack, while former world champion Tom Boonen, who suffered a puncture, had to wait until some 30km before the line to catch the group.
Gesink, with his elbow and knee bleeding, crossed the line 9 hours and 35 minutes after the main bunch.