Pierrick Fedrigo won stage 15 of the Tour de France as Bradley Wiggins retained the yellow jersey.
Fedrigo, who also won in Pau in 2010, was part of a six-man escape that was allowed to stay clear entering Pau.
Christian Vande Velde and Fedrigo burst clear with five kilometres left and the Frenchman was too quick in the sprint.
Wiggins and the peloton finished almost 12 minutes back but the Briton kept his overall lead of two minutes and five seconds over team-mate Chris Froome.
The largely flat and short 158km stage, which began in Samatan, was expected to end in a bunch sprint but, after several failed early breakaways, a bunch were allowed to build a commanding advantage with 90km to go.
- Wednesday's stage 16:
Four big mountains in the Pyrenees that could play a big part in deciding the winner
- Thursday's stage 17:
Final mountain stage and a summit finish
- Friday's stage 18:
Bunch sprint expected at end of 223km ride
- Saturday's stage 19:
53.5km individual time trial. If any rivals take time off Wiggins in the mountains, this is his chance to get it back
- Sunday's stage 20:
A procession for the man in yellow. Mark Cavendish chasing a fourth successive win on the Champs-Elysees
Along with Fedrigo of the FDJ team and Garmin's Vande Velde, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) raced ahead and Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank) bridged the gap to join them.
At one stage it appeared that teams with strong sprinters, like Team Sky's Mark Cavendish or Lotto's Andre Greipel, would chase them down but instead the gap continued to grow and it was left to the escapees to fight it out for the stage win.
"I don't think it is down to us to do all the work at the moment with the Pyrenees coming up," Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford told BBC Radio 5 live.
"It makes sense for us to conserve our energy a little bit or share the workload. But the other teams don't want to share the work, so we conserved our energy."
Wiggins, nicknamed 'Le Gentleman' by French media for his part in neutralising the race after
Sunday's sabotage attack when tacks were thrown in the road,
had a largely uneventful day after suffering an early puncture.
The 32-year-old Londoner, looking to become the first British winner of the Tour in its 109-year history, is unlikely to get as easy a ride when the race resumes after Tuesday's rest day.
Wednesday's stage 16
heads through the Pyrenees over 197km from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, and features two unclassified climbs in the Aubisque and Tourmalet, followed by the first-category Aspin and Peyresourde.
Thursday is another brutal stage with a mountain-top finish at Peyragudes, and both days will offer opportunities for Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans to attack Wiggins and try to reduce his lead before Saturday's time trial, where he is expected to dominate.
Stage 15 top five:
Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ - 3hrs 40 mins, 15 secs.
Christian Vande Velde (US) Garmin
Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar @ 12"
Nicki Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank @ 12"
Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step @ 21"
Overall race standing after stage 15:
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky 68hrs, 33mins, 21secs
2. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky @ 2'05"
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas @ 2'23
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing @ 3'19"
5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto @ 4'48"