The Ag2R La Mondiale rider rolled home in 44th place in the same time as his main rivals to ensure the overnight deficit of three minutes and 45 seconds to the yellow jersey of Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) remained intact.
With the overall favourites opting to conserve energy for today’s third day in the Pyrenees, a successful breakaway was always likely.
And it was fitting that the world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) delivered a performance worthy of his rainbow jersey.
He overtook Jeremy Roy (FDJ) with 2.2-kilometres to go on the 152.5km 13th stage from Pau to Lourdes before roaring in jubilation at the finish. It was his ninth Tour victory, and arguably his most impressive.
The Norwegian powerhouse had been dropped by the Frenchman on the ascent of the hors categorie Col d’Aubisque 42 kilometres from the finish, and was two minutes in arrears going over the summit, but steadily chipped away at the FDJ rider’s advantage.
Hushovd caught fellow breakaway companion David Moncoutié (Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne) and together they set off in pursuit of Roy.
At the 15k sign, Roy’s lead was down to 31 seconds, and Hushovd rode away from Moncoutié with 3km remaining and was soon up to Roy. The Norwegian didn’t wait to take on the FDJ rider in the sprint, jumping past him before going on to win with a comfortable gap.
A devastated Roy rolled in third and but he did receive some reward for his efforts in the King of the Mountains jersey.
Thomas Voeckler leads from Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek) by a minute and 49 seconds with Cadel Evans of BMC a further 15 seconds adrift.
Today’s monster stage is one of the most decisive of this year’s race as the riders will tackle the category one climbs of the Col de la core (62.5k) and the col d’Agnes (109k) before the riders hit the hors categorie ascent of the Plateau de Beille after 168 gruelling kilometres.