Frenchman Thomas Voeckler stubbornly held on to the Tour de France yellow jersey on Saturday as reigning champion Alberto Contador survived another onslaught in the mountains.
Contador, who has a deficit of 2:11 to Frank Schleck and a sore knee, came under constant attack on the 15.8 km climb to Plateau de Beille but soaked up the pressure to lose only two seconds to key rival Andy Schleck.
Belgian Jelle Vanendert, of the Omega Pharma team, meanwhile took a well-deserved victory on the 14th stage after jumping out of the group of overall favourites 6.8 km from the finish.
He caught early breakaway rider Sandy Casar and despite a late counter-attack by Stage 12 winner Samuel Sanchez the Belgian held on to claim his maiden win on the race.
Vanendert finished 0:21 ahead of Euskaltel rider Sanchez, with former two-time runner-up Andy Schleck coming over the line at 0:46.
Australian Cadel Evans, also a two-time runner-up, finished two seconds later in the company of Voeckler and Contador.
As Contador survived what was set to be a major test of his right knee injury, Voeckler stunned everyone by countering a number of accelerations by the Schlecks and Italian Ivan Basso.
The Frenchman started the stage already prepared to hand over the race lead and came over the finish line shaking his fist in celebration.
“I don’t really know what to say. I’m really surprised,” said Voeckler.
“I didn’t expect to still have the jersey today.”
Voeckler will now go into Sunday’s mainly flat stage from Limoux to Montpellier with a 1:49 lead on Frank Schleck.
Monday is a rest day and the yellow jersey battle will resume during three consecutive days in the Alps starting on Tuesday’s Stage 17.