Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) triumphed on the uphill finish into Rodez on stage 13 of the Tour de France, as Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) had to settle for second place once again.
Van Avermaet led the sprint out up the hill, after the break was caught on the climb, with Sagan seemingly in the perfect finish to come around him, but the Belgian proved too strong as the road levelled out and held on to claim victory.
The yellow jersey group finished together a few places back, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) crossing in sixth place to maintain his overall lead.
Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), with a stage finish in his hometown, was unsurprisingly one of the riders in the break, with Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) also offering significant firepower.
Cyril Gautier (Team Europcar) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) completed the six-man move, but Giant-Alpecin chased hard all day to keep them in check at the front.
The intermediate sprint was contested from the bunch, with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) provisionally overtaking green jersey Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Greipel’s hopes of reclaiming the jersey at the end of the stage, however, were hit when he got dropped from the peloton on the category-four Cote de la Selve.
The only other major incident in the bunch saw Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) take a bad tumble after a slight touching of wheels, last year’s runner-up suffering bad some nasty abrasions as a result.
The gap held steady at four minutes for much of the day, but Tinkoff-Saxo joined the chase and it had halved by the time Haas strode out alone with an impressive turn of speed.
His five fellow escapees chased him down, with Gautier showing his displeasure at the move, but when the break spit up again it was the Europcar setting the tempo.
Kelderman and De Gendt joined him, but the Giant-Alpecin-led bunch continued to eat into their advantage.
The three still led as they hit the final climb, but Arnaud Demare (FDJ) led the bunch across with just 500m remaining, and Sagan and Van Avermaet hit the front, with the Slovakian drafting the Belgian.
It appeared to be advantage Sagan, for once, but after van Avermaet blocked his attempted pass on the inside, the BMC Racing man proved too strong.
The second place was enough to ensure Sagan keeps the green jersey, with an expanded lead, but glory on the day belonged to Van Avermaet – meaning another near-miss for the Slovakian champion.
Tour de France 2015: stage 13 – result
1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 4.43.42hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
3) Jan Bakelants (BEL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3”
4) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin +7”
5) Paul Martens (GER) – LottoNL-Jumbo – ST
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana
8) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo
9) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar
10) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 51.34.21hrs
2) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +2.52
3) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.09
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +3.58
5) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +4.03
6) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +4.04
7) Robert Gesink (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +5.32
8) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +7.32
9) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +7.47
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek Factory Racing +8.01