On the four climbs of the day, the Texan brought back memories of his glory days as he raced flat out with his black and red jersey wide open to his chest.

"I planned to attack. I knew straightaway on Peyresourde that it would be difficult and that a group was going to go away," he said. "It was full gas all day."

Fedrigo's victory was the third successive French victory in this year's race and the sixth in total.

"It was my day. Everything smiled on me," he said. "This shows that it isn't only the great leaders who can win on the Tour de France, it's also the general riders."

Fedrigo also won a stage in 2009 and 2006 and has appeared regularly in the breakaways in this year's race.

No change

The leaders finished more than six minutes ahead of the main group, but there was no change in the overall standings.

Spain's Alberto Contador held on to 
the leader's yellow jersey [AFP]

Yellow jersey holder Alberto Contador of Spain crossed the line in the peloton along with his closest challenger, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, after Contador's Astana team packed the front of the main group on the climb up the Col d'Aubisque and prevented Schleck from attacking.

Schleck had been furious with Contador after Monday's stage because he felt the Spaniard should have waited when Schleck suffered a mechanical problem during the main climb of the day.

Contador surged ahead and took the yellow jersey at the end of the stage, but he later apologised, and on Tuesday the two came together on the stage of the French broadcaster and shook hands.

"We are fine now," Schleck said. "The Tour de France isn't going to be won by eight seconds, and there's going to be a big race between him and me the day after tomorrow."

Wednesday is a rest day in the Tour, but on Thursday the racers will turn around and ride the Pyrenees in the other direction, ending on the top of the Col du Tourmalet.

In the battle for the green sprinter's jersey, Thor Hushovd of Norway retook the lead after finishing 10th on Tuesday while Alessandro Petacchi and three-time stage winner Mark Cavendish trailed along at the back.