Bradley Wiggins, Thomas Löfkvist and Geraint Thomas all finished in the main peloton as Pierrick Fédrigo outsprinted his breakaway companions to take stage 16 of the Tour de France in Pau.
Wiggins went on the attack straight away, getting himself in an early 14-man break alongside Lance Armstrong among others.
They went clear on the ascent of the Col de Peyresourde and the big climbs just kept coming on the 199.5km route from Bagnères-de-Luchon.
By the time they reached the Col du Tourmalet, the highest point of this year's race, the break had been caught and a new nine-man group had formed, with seven-time winner Armstrong again in the mix as he aimed for a fairytale stage victory on his final Tour de France.
After the fabled 17.1km climb of the Tourmalet, which features twice on the route in celebration of 100 years since the Tour's first visit to the Pyrenees, it was on to the Col d'Aubisque and soon after Carlos Barredo (Quick-Step) launched a solo attack 15km into the 60km descent to Pau.
It so nearly succeeded but the eight men behind finally caught him with the flamme rouge in sight to set up a sprint finish.
Bbox - Bouygues rider Fédrigo proved strongest in that to notch yet another win for France, edging out compatriot Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Rubén Plaza (Casse d'Epargne).
RadioShack's Armstrong had to settle for sixth while Barredo's effort took its toll and he was 28 seconds back in ninth when the line came, with the peloton 6:45 adrift of the winner.
Onwards and upwards
Wiggins and Löfkvist were both in that main bunch and remain in the top 25 on the general classification in 21st and 17th respectively.
"I thought today that if I could have a big day out in the mountains I might have a chance to do something," said Wiggins. "I had a go but there were too many guys who were close [to the yellow jersey] on general classification and it didn't work out for one reason or another.
"At least I got stuck in, and it's not over. I feel that I'm coming round now. As soon as I accepted that I didn't have the form in this Tour that I had last year [in which Wiggins placed fourth] I felt a lot happier.
"I'm looking forward to the time trial now, the way I'm feeling," he continued. "Looking at how everyone is - everyone's on their knees. So I've maybe got a chance of picking up a stage win, and that's what's left for me now."
There were no major changes at the top of the standings, with reigning champion Alberto Contador taking an eight seconds lead over Andy Schleck into Wednesday's rest day.
However there was a significant move on the points classification, with Cervélo's Thor Hushovd reclaiming the green jersey from Alessandro Petacchi thanks to his tenth-placed finish.