The tradition that the winner on Plateau de Beille continues to win the Tour de France will probably end this year.
Saturday's winner for Stage 14 was Belgian cyclist Jelle Venendert, left, who started the day in 30th place and had never before won a professional bike race.
Meanwhile, the favorite contenders attacked, marked and matched each other all the way up the final climb. The cat and mouse enabled France's Thomas Voeckler, above right, to survive for another day in the yellow jersey. With two flat stages coming up, there's no reason he can't hold onto the jersey into the Alps.
Although the peloton faced three days of hard cycling in the Pyrenees, the massive climbs in the first two days didn't prove decisive. The 168km (104 miles) route from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille proved the same.
Cyclists faced seven climbs, including the mountain top finish. In the past four Tours de France finishes here, the stage winner went on to win the Tour championship.
While allowing Omega-Pharma's Vandendert to escape on the ascent for the stage win didn't threaten the leaders, another cyclist who got away might.
Spain's Sammy Sanchez also escaped the leaders on the final climb and gained another 27 seconds. The Olympic gold medalist of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing is now in 6th place at 3:44, moving up from 8th overall.
Vanendert also won the King of the Mountains yellow jersey on the stage. That's a great achievement for a cyclist brought to the Tour to ride in support of Jurgen van den Broeck, who abandoned last week after a crash.
The Brothers Schleck, Andy and Frank, looked ready to take control of the Tour on Saturday as their Leopard Trek cycling team set a high pace and decimated the field, leaving only the high contenders. In the process, teammate Jens Voight contributed to his tough-guy image, by crashing twice (once heading off the road and down a hillside), then returning to set a grueling pace on the final climb.
Andy Schleck made most of the attacks, but slowed before putting the other high contenders in jeopardy. While Garmin-Cervelo's Christian Vande Velde set a high pace for Tom Danielson over a stretch, one of those Andy Schleck attacks knocked them off the back.
As the survivors of an early 20-man breakaway were being swept up, Venendert attacked with about 5 miles of climbing left. Later Sanchez followed the same route.
7 days remain
Meanwhile, Voeckler, the Brothers Schleck, Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and even Cadel Evans (BMC) attacked leaders but were brought back. About the only cyclist in the Top 10 not to attack was defending champion Alberto Contador, who marked the pace and happily let the others tire themselves out.
Someone better start making a move in this Tour.
Sunday's Stage 15 is flat, Monday is a rest day, and Tuesday's Stage 16 is a medium mountain stage. The next three days — Stages 17, 18 and 19 — are Alpine stages, followed by an individual time trial on the penultimate stage. The final stage rolls into Paris.
Top 10 overall
1 Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar
2 Fränk Schleck, Leopard Trek — 1:49
3 Cadel Evan, BMC Racing Team — 02:06
4 Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek — 2:15
5 Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale — 3:16
6 Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi — 3:44
7 Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank — 4:00
8 Damiano Cunego, Lampre – ISD — 4:01
9 Thomas Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo — 5:46
10 Kevin De Weert, QuickStep — 6:18