Annonay: British veteran David Millar led a five-man breakaway to win the 12th and longest stage of the Tour de France on Friday.
His compatriot, Bradley Wiggins, retained the overall leader`s yellow jersey, keeping pace with his main rivals in the pack 7 minutes, 54 seconds behind the breakaway bunch.
The 140-mile ride from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay-Davezieux, featuring two big climbs, carried the race out of the Alps.
Millar, a 35-year-old Scot, punched the air as he edged Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud at the line in their two-man sprint — just seconds ahead of three others.
Millar collected his fourth career Tour stage victory and first since 2003. He also became the fourth Briton to win a Tour stage this year after Mark Cavendish, Christopher Froome and Wiggins.
The victory was also a vindication for Millar`s Garmin-Sharp team, which lost two of its top riders to crashes in the first two weeks of the race: Giro d`Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal of Canada and American Tom Danielson.
"We fought from the beginning in this Tour, and for me personally, it`s enormous," said Millar. "Today I kind of wanted to show that we`re still here and show that Garmin-Sharp is still one of the best teams in the world."
As for him and his fellow British riders looking so strong ahead of the Olympics in London, Millar said: "Yeah, I think we`re at the top," referring to himself as "the old dog" of the bunch.
Putting his race savvy to work, Millar sped out ahead of the four others in the breakaway with just over a mile to go, and Peraud chased. In the final stretch, it was a two-man battle for the stage win.
Millar kept looking back at Peraud, tight on the Briton`s wheel. With a few hundred yards remaining, the Frenchman struck and wheeled around, but it was not enough as the Scottish veteran beat him to the line.
After the finish, Millar lay on the ground on his back, with microphones and cameras hovering over him as he breathed heavily and put his forearm on his forehead.
Millar also noted that his stage victory came 45 years to the day after British rider Tom Simpson died on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in 1967.
Millar, who was once banned from riding for doping earlier in his career, has since become one of the pack`s most vocal riders about how it`s possible to win clean.
"I`m an ex-doper, and I`m clean now — and I want to show everyone that it`s possible to win clean on the Tour," Millar said.
The race heads toward the Mediterranean on Saturday for France`s July 14 national holiday — Bastille Day — with a 135-mile jaunt from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to the coastal resort of Le Cap d`Agde, known for its nudist colony.