Mark Cavendish notched his fifth victory this year at the Tour de France as a group of sprinters hung onto the peloton's leaders over the final climb of Stage 19.
The win makes 24-year-old the winningest Brit in Tour de France history with nine stage victories.
Although the top 8 overall remained in order behind yellow jersey Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong gained 4 seconds in his overall third position by staying with the lead group as a split developed further back to the others in the peloton.
The 110-mile stage from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas was considered to be an intermediate stage that might see a breakaway group finish first. An early breakaway was reeled in, though. Cavendish and his main rival, Thor Hushovd, remained with the leading group on the category 2 ascent on Col de l'Escrinet 10 miles from the finish line.
A second split developed on the climb. Two riders, Alessandro Ballan of Lampre and Laurent Lefevre of BBox, led the leaders over the summit with about a 10-second margin.
Rabobank's Denis Menchov powered the leaders up the hill in an attempt to get teammate Oscar Freire into a sprint win. On the twisting streets of Aubenas, Columbia's George Hincapie went to the front of his team and nailed Ballan and Lefevre.
Then Columbia's leadout man Mark Renshaw escorted Cavendish to within sight of the finish. With Milram's Gerald Ciolek making his move on the outside, Renshaw dropped off and Cavendish accelerated to the finish with Norway's Hushovd on his wheel.
Cavendish now holds more Tour de France wins than any previous British cyclist. He broke a record held by Barry Hoban for some 30 years. Amazingly, Cavendish achieved the feat in just 2 years.
Armstrong stayed with the leading group of 12 across the finish line to gain 4 seconds on his rivals.
He'll need every second he can get as the peloton climbs Mont Ventoux for the next to last stage of the Tour de France on Saturday. If he can hold his No. 3 place in the general classification, Armstrong has a lock on a podium finish in Paris.
He'll have to watch out for Garmin's Bradley Wiggins, 15 seconds behind.
Meanwhile, Hincapie is riding with his shoulder taped up for a possible broken collarbone. At Hincapie's Twitter account:
“Very hard day today. I was in the hurt locker for most of day. Came around near the end.”
Top 10 overall
1. Alberto Contador (Astana)
2. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) – 4:11
3. Lance Armstrong (Astana) – 5:21
4. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) – 5:36
5. Andreas Kloden (Astana) – 5:38
6. Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) – 5:59
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) – 7:15
8. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) – 10:08
9. Christophe Le Mevel (Francaise des Jeux) – 12:37
10. Mikel Astarloza (Eukaltel Euskadi) – 12:38