Lourdes - World champion Thor Hushovd claimed the 13th stage of the Tour de France after defeating two Frenchmen in a nail-biting finale on Friday.
The Norwegian rider from the Garmin-Cervelo team powered away with 2.5 kilometres left to beat France's David Moncoutie by 10 seconds, according to provisional results.
Another Frenchman, Jeremy Roy, was on the attack all day but had to settle for third some 26 seconds off the pace, snatching the polka dot jersey for the best climber in the process.
Thomas Voeckler of France retained the overall leader's yellow jersey as the big guns enjoyed a quiet day in the 152.5-km stage from Pau.
Roy, who had already spent almost 200 km in a breakaway in Thursday's gruelling mountain trek, attacked in the descent from the Col de Cuqueron around 105 km from the finish.
He was joined by eight riders, including former race leader Hushovd, but he was on his own before the top of the out-of-category Col de l'Aubisque.
Cheered on by his team manager Marc Madiot, a two-times Paris-Roubaix champion, Roy launched a solo time trial with his face a mask of pain and his mouth wide open as he gasped for air.
Hushovd and Moncoutie joined forces in the descent before the Frenchman refused to take turns with eight km left.
Hushovd then attacked three km from the line and caught Roy 500 metres further on with the FDJ rider was unable to catch the Norwegian's wheel, cracking in the finale.
"It is a huge disappointment. It's hard to swallow," Roy told reporters.
German veteran Andreas Kloeden, twice a Tour de France runner-up, pulled out after less than 40 kilometres after failing to recover from a crash on Thursday.
Saturday's 14th stage is a 168.5-km trek ending with an intimidating climb to the Plateau de Beille
Stage 13 results:
1. Thor Hushovd, Norway, Garmin-Cervelo, 3 hours, 47 minutes, 36 seconds.
2. David Moncoutie, France, Cofidis, 10 seconds behind.
3. Jeremy Roy, France, Francaise des Jeux, :26.
4. Lars Bak, Denmark, HTC-Highroad, 5:00.
5. Jerome Pineau, France, Quick Step, 5:02.
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway, Sky Procycling, 5:03.
7. Vladimir Gusev, Russia, Katusha, 5:08.
8. Alessandro Petacchi, Italy, Lampre-ISD, 5:16.
9. Maarten Tjallingii, Netherlands, Rabobank, same time.
10. Philippe Gilbert, Belgium, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 6:48.
11. Bauke Mollema, Netherlands, Rabobank, 6:51.
12. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Spain, Movistar, 7:37.
13. Tony Gallopin, France, Cofidis, same time.
14. Grega Bole, Slovenia, Lampre-ISD, same time.
15. Jelle Vanendert, Belgium, Omega Pharma-Lotto, same time.
16. Maxime Monfort, Belgium, Leopard-Trek, same time.
17. Thomas Voeckler, France, Europcar, same time.
18. Gianni Meersman, Belgium, Francaise des Jeux, same time.
19. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, same time.
20. Pierre Rolland, France, Europcar, same time.
25. Cadel Evans, Australia, BMC, same time.
26. Damiano Cunego, Italy, Lampre-ISD, same time.
38. Alberto Contador, Spain, Saxo Bank Sungard, same time.
42. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, same time.
49. Ivan Basso, Italy, Liquigas-Cannondale, same time.
1. Thomas Voeckler, France, Europcar, 55 hours, 49 minutes, 57 seconds.
2. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 1:49.
3. Cadel Evans, Australia, BMC, 2:06.
4. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 2:17
5. Ivan Basso, Italy, Liquigas-Cannondale, 3:16.
6. Damiano Cunego, Italy, Lampre-ISD, 3:22.
7. Alberto Contador, Spain, Saxo Bank Sungard, 4:00.
8. Samuel Sanchez, Spain, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 4:11.
9. Philippe Gilbert, Belgium, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 4:35.
10. Tom Danielson, United States, Garmin-Cervelo, same time.
11. Nicolas Roche, Ireland, AG2R La Mondiale, 4:57.
12. Kevin De Weert, Belgium, Quick Step, 5:07.
13. Arnold Jeannesson, France, Francaise des Jeux, 5:50.
14. Peter Velits, Slovakia, HTC-Highroad, 6:03.
15. Haimar Zubeldia, Spain, RadioShack, 7:17.
16. Rein Taaramae, Estonia, Cofidis, 7:27.
17. Levi Leipheimer, United States, RadioShack, 7:51.
18. Rigoberto Uran, Colombia, Sky Procycling, 7:55.
19. Jean-Christophe Peraud, France, AG2R La Mondiale, 8:20.
20. Vladimir Gusev, Russia, Katusha, 8:44.