Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins comfortably retained his overall lead as Pierrick Fédrigo (FDJ-Big Mat) won the 15th stage of the Tour de France.
Fédrigo, the winner the last time a Tour stage had finished in Pau in 2010 and taking his fourth stage in total, had been part of a six-man break which was allowed to dominate the second part of the 158.5 kilometres stage from Samatan.
He and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) jumped clear of their breakaway companions 5km from the finish and Fédrigo was much the stronger in the sprint to the line, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) winning the battle for third, 12 seconds behind.
Nearly 12 minutes later the peloton crossed the line, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) taking the sprint for seventh.
The general classification contenders were all safely in that group so the top of the rankings were unchanged, with Wiggins taking a lead of 2:05 over Team Sky colleague Chris Froome into Tuesday's rest day after eight days in the yellow jersey. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) is third at +2:23 and defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is fourth on +3:19.
The Tour resumes with Wednesday's 197km 16th stage from Pau to Bagners-de-Luchon, which is the first of two big days in the Pyrenees.
Day of two halves
It took over 60km of frantic racing for the break to go clear - with Fédrigo trying on several occasions to initiate an escape before his persistence was rewarded.
And once that happened it turned into a much more relaxed day for the peloton as none of the escape riders were a threat to the GC leaders; Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) and Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who bridged over to them, being the other riders in the break along with Fédrigo, Vande Velde and Voeckler.
Within a matter of kilometres they had a lead of five minutes over the peloton and though Bernhard Eisel and Christian Knees helped keep them in range there was limited help from other teams apart from Lotto-Belisol.
It became obvious with around 40 kilometres to go that the gap wasn't going to come down and from that point onwards it was then all about the six breakaway riders' battle for the stage win.
As the peloton made their way to Pau, world champion Mark Cavendish again helped Wiggins stay out of trouble in the closing stages.
But the Manxman did not contest the sprint for seventh as Greipel beat Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and points classification leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) to the line.
Sports Director Sean Yates said of the way the day had panned out: "It took a long time for the break to go and there was not one metre of flat before it went.
"It was damned hard work to keep everything in check as well because there were lots of guys trying to get in it.
"As well as those that could potentially pose a GC threat, we had to monitor the RadioShack guys as well as they wanted to stretch their advantage in the team classification. Franck Schleck tried to get in a few moves for instance which we had to shut down."
One day at a time
The riders will now have a well-earned rest day but Wiggins knows there's still plenty of working to be done, saying: "There are gaps in the GC of course, and yes we are in a great position, but even the time-trial on Saturday could see gaps.
"The last time-trial of the Tour is not the same as the one in the first week. You're tired and it's not easy to put in the same amount of effort as in the first week."
Wiggins will wait until the end of his day off to look ahead to Wednesday's stage.
"I always think if you start looking too far ahead you forget what's in front of you," he said.
"And it doesn't seem so vast, from the start back in Liege. I'll have a good look tomorrow night at the stage on Wednesday and there's no real point looking at Thursday until Wednesday's done."