Norway's Alexander Kristoff captured his second stage win of this year's Tour de France by leading home a pack that overtook two breakaway riders with only about 50 meters to go in a dramatic finish to Stage 15.
Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, having made sure that his main rivals couldn't claw back any time, finished smoothly in the trailing pack to keep the overall leader's yellow jersey.
After two days in the Alps, Sunday's stage offered some relief over a flat 222km from Tallard, southeast France's parachuting capital, toward the city of Nimes - known for its Roman arena and bullfighting.
Kristoff, a Katusha rider who also won Stage 12, lifted a fist after leading the sprinters who surged ahead of the two breakaways - Swiss champion Martin Elmiger and Jack Bauer of New Zealand - who had led the stage virtually since the starter's gun.
"It was a little bit late for comfort. It was very close,'' said Kristoff. "I thought I would be second ... we turned on the gas.''
Bauer tapped his head on his helmet, sighed heavily, leaned over his bike and burst into tears after failing to win. In the last few hundred meters, he left IAM Cycling's Elmiger behind as he headed for the line.
More grueling climbs are looming in the Pyrenees this week before the only individual time trial of this Tour, next Saturday. Riders take a second rest day on Monday.