Belgian Vanendert won the 14th stage of the Tour de France race from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille [Reuters]

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler kept the overall lead in the Tour de France on Saturday after an expected battle on the flanks of Plateau de Beille turned into a disappointing no-contest between the favourites.

Belgian Jelle Vanendert surprised the main contenders by snatching victory in the 168.5km 14th stage from St Gaudens and avenged his second place to Spain's Samuel Sanchez in Luz-Ardiden two days earlier.

Sanchez finished 21 seconds behind the Omega Pharma Lotto rider, who attacked seven km from the line to become the first Belgian since Lucien Van Impe 30 years ago to win a major mountain stage on the Tour.

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck sprinted to the line in the final stretch to take third place, 46 seconds off the pace but only two seconds ahead of the other big names who all finished together.

"It's a pity. It reminds me of 2009 when only Andy and me were trying. This time it was only us and (Italy's Ivan) Basso and the others looked at each other," summed up Andy's brother Frank, who kept his second place overall, 1:49 behind Voeckler. 

Voeckler emerged as the strong man of the Pyrenees and  looks set to retain the yellow jersey at least until the Alps.

"I really don't know what to say. I'm really surprised. I went to my limits but I had the impression the others were at their limits too," said the Frenchman, whose best result in nine previous Tours was 18th in 2004.

Source: Agencies