David Moncoutie seized his chance on the roads of his home region of central France to claim the 164-km 11th stage of the Tour de France.
With two tough stages in the Pyrenees up next, five times champion Lance Armstrong and the other favourites took it easy between St Flour and Figeac, saving strength for the mountains.
Armstrong remains sixth overall, nine minutes and 35 seconds behind Frenchman Thomas Voeckler but poised to strike.
Moncoutie, 13th overall in the Tour in 2002, parted company with Spaniards Juan Antonio Flecha and Egoi Martinez with 10 km left to the finish to clinch his first Tour stage victory on Thursday.
The Frenchman came home two minutes 15 seconds clear of his two rivals with the peloton just under six minutes in arrears.
Moncoutie and Martinez had broken away after 50 km and were quickly joined by Flecha, who has been very active in recent finishes and looking to repeat a stage win in Toulouse in 2003.
The trio held a maximum lead of about eight minutes on the peloton which was driven by Brioches La Boulangere, the team working to keep French champion Voeckler in the yellow jersey.
Voeckler, who is not known as an exceptional climber, is not expected to keep the jersey past the two stages held in the Pyrenees on Friday and Saturday.
Friday's 197.5-km 12th stage takes the bunch to La Mongie, the ski resort in which Armstrong seized the yellow jersey once and for all in 2002.