Overall leader Jonas Winggaard tracked Tadej Pogakar’s attack to the Tour de France stage 14 finish line, as the defending champions tried to take time off their Danish rival, but were unsuccessful.
Australian Michael Mathews won the stage in the 192km race from Saint-Etienne, after a see-saw struggle with Italian rider Alberto Bettiol in a 60C heatwave with road temperatures up to the final hill.
Earlier, Pogakar attempted an attack near the start of the stage before the wingguard’s jumbo team reeled the Slovenian UAE man.
As the peloton settled in as it narrowed, streets filled with rowdy fans in otherwise empty countryside, Matthews and 20 other riders broke in.
The first time the 31-year-old Matthews tried to shake off his teammates, he retreated and overtook Bettiol. The Australian rallied and overtook Bettiol to take a fourth Tour de France stage win.
Some 10 minutes down the road, Pogakar went again with his trademark kick on a steep 5km climb from the finish, but the wingguard was easily left behind and held all the way to the line at Mende Aerodrome.
Ineos pair Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates both dropped 20 seconds but finished third and fifth respectively. Frenchman Romain Bardet ended the fourth day in his home field, where banners bearing his name were hung from buildings, walls and trees.
The scorching heat softened the tarmac at some corners and 2,000 liters of cold water poured onto the new roads about 20 minutes before the peloton passed.