Kurt Asle Arvesen emerged from a group of a dozen escapees to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France from Lannemezan to Foix.
The debut Tour stage victory for the 33-year-old Norwegian national champion continues a fine race for the CSC team, who also controlled Monday’s stage from Pau to Hautacam with a powerful five-man attack.
Arvesen had the best line of attack out of the final corner, and edged out Martin Elmiger of Ag2r-La Mondiale and Lampre’s Alessandro Ballan by a tyre’s width.
However, CSC could not close Frank Schleck’s slender one-second gap on race leader Cadel Evans, who holds onto the yellow jersey going into tomorrow’s flat stage from Lavelanet to Narbonne.
Evans was guided carefully through the stage by his Silence-Lotto team, to keep him on course in his quest to be the first Australian to win the Tour de France.
The 167.5km stage began under a cloud, with a second rider, Moises Duenas Nevado, withdrawn from the race after testing positive for the banned substance EPO.
The Amaury Sports Organisation, who run the Tour, dismissed 37-year-old Manuel Beltran’s transgression as symptomatic of a certain era of riders, but the same cannot be said of Duenas Nevado, just 27, the winner of the Tour de l’Avenir only two years ago.
Duenas Nevado’s Barloworld team look set to continue in the race.
Given a day’s rest after the exertions of the Tourmalet and the Hautacam, the riders had to contend with an unknown category one climb, the Col de Portel, on the early part of the stage.
At the foot of the Portel the group of 12, all out of contention for overall victory, had a lead of over 14 minutes on the peloton.
Cofidis’ Amael Moinard broke away from the other 11 riders 9km from the summit to become the first man ever to pass the Portel in Tour history.
The Frenchman held out valiantly over the Col del Buich, and held off attacks by Arvesen and Elmiger until he was swallowed up with three kilometres left.