Spaniard Marcos Serrano claimed victory on the 189km 18th stage of the Tour de France between Albi and Mende yesterday after holding off a strong challenge from Cedric Vasseur and Axel Merckx.
The Liberty-Seguros rider was a member of an initial group of ten that broke away from the peloton, including race leader Lance Armstrong, at the 20km mark and stretched their lead throughout the race.
However, Armstrong remains firmly in charge of the overall standings and, barring unforeseen circumstances, will now arrive in Paris on Sunday in the yellow jersey to claim his seventh consecutive Tour de France title.
Serrano's win, the fifth of his career and his first Tour success, came after a challenging ascent over the final summit to the finish. "I'd like to dedicate this victory to everyone who has supported me," said the 33-year-old.
"I had to dig deep inside me to do it. Everyone in the team is pulling together for a win and in the end I did it."
"It's the third Spanish win (after Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro) and it's great - our speciality tends to be climbing."
The 18th stage, a tricky affair featuring five climbs, including two second category peaks near the finish. begun after a minute's silence was held in memory of Australian road cyclist Amy Gillett, who was killed in an accident while on a training run in Germany on Tuesday.
After some initial jostling for position, the group of ten broke away just before the Alban climb and never looked back.
However, Armstrong still heads the field after trailing in over 11 minutes behind Serrano. He leads Ivan Basso, of Italy, by 2mins 46secs and Denmark's Michael Rasmussen by a further minute.
Ironically, Armstrong has yet to win a stage in this year's Tour. Should the sixtime champion go on to claim a seventh Tour title in Paris on Sunday without actually winning a stage he would match his performance of 2000 when he celebrated an overall victory without winning any individual road stages.
Frenchman Lucien Aimar (1966) and American Greg Lemond (1990) are the only others to achieve the feat.
The Tour resumes today in Issoire for the 189km trek to Le Puy en Velay.