On a hot, flat day of racing tailor-made for sprinters, Australian Robbie McEwen bided his time and then unleashed a furious dash for the win in Stage 13 Friday, passing two riders who had set the pace for most of the day on the 108-mile road from Miramas to Montpellier, and beating green jersey rivals Stuart O'Grady and Thor Hushovd.
Australian Robbie McEwen won his third stage of the Tour de France Friday.
McEwen advances in the points standings but remains in third place among the field of sprinters 22 points behind Hushovd, as the Tour climbs again into the mountains.
There were no changes in the overall lead Friday as the peloton shrugged off an attack by five low-placed riders, including American Christopher Horner (Saunier Duval) and Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis, who put 9:20 on the peloton around the 31-mile mark.
The two exhausted riders were still in the lead with less than a quarter mile to go, positioning for the sprint, when they were overtaken by McEwen and the speeding peloton. Horner finished tenth for the day, while Chavanel finished 16th.
Lance Armstrong, still in the yellow jersey he's worn for all but four stages, kept to his usual position near the front of the peloton, his 38-second advantage over number two rider Rabobank's Mickael Rasmussen under no threat today.
Stage 10 winner Alejandro Valverde, the 25-year-old Spaniard who sported the white jersey for the past three days as the Tour's youth leader, abandoned the race today complaining of illness.
Team Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych, 25, who had been trailing Valverde by 3:09, will inherit the lead in the youth category. However, Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin (Credit Agricole) is just seven seconds off Popovych's rear wheel.
Valverde is the second jersey rider in two days to throw in the towel. Yesterday, points leader Tom Boonen (Quick Step) pulled out on the starting line due to a knee injury, passing the green jersey he's virtually owned since Stage 2 to Hushovd.
Discovery Channel's Manuel Beltran, who knocked his head in a crash yesterday and withdrew from the race, is reportedly in fair health, Discovery Channel spokesman Dan Osipow told the Outdoor Life Network, though Osipow said Beltran still does not remember the crash.
Tomorrow, the Tour swings into the Pyrenees for three days, stages Armstrong has used to widen his lead in previous years.