Tom Boonen timed his sprint perfectly to take the glory in Tours on stage three of the Tour de France.
The Belgian pipped Peter Wrolich, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady, although the former lost his place for hindering O'Grady's line at the finish.
Erik Dekker, Nicolas Portal and Rubens Bertogliati had broken after just 27km but were gobbled up close to the end.
Race leader David Zabriskie and six-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong finished safely in the peloton.
Of the three escapees, Swiss rider Bertogliati of Saunier was the first to be reined in 12km out.
Holland and Rabobank's Dekker and France and AG2R Prevoyance's Nicolas Portal were caught 2km from the finish.
Boonen had been 11th or 12th in a tight bunch as they raced for the finish but hung on to several back wheels before cutting a swathe through the middle.
Quickstep rider Boonen won Sunday's second stage in similarly daring fashion and keeps the green jersey for best sprinter.
"It's difficult to win a stage here at Tours in the Tour," the 24-year-old said.
"It's an extremely hard finish. If you start too late, it's all over and I waited a long, long time.
"I was a little nervous but I was okay. I felt pretty calm until the last kilometre.
"I waited a long time but I know you have to wait and then take your chances and hope luck is on your side."
Leading stage three finishers:
1. Tom Boonen (Bel/Quick-Step) 4hr 36mins 09secs
2. Peter Wrolich (Aut/Gerolsteiner) at same time
3. Stuart O'Grady (Aus/Cofidis)
4. Bernhard Eisel (Aut/Francaise des Jeux)
5. Allan Davis (Aus/Liberty Seguros)
6. Robert Forster (Ger/Gerolsteiner)
7. Magnus Backstedt (Swe/Liquigas)
8. Anthony Geslin (Fra/Bouygues Telecom)
9. Thor Hushovd (Nor/Credit Agricole)
10. Angelo Furlan (Ita/Domina Vacanze)
1. David Zabriskie (US/CSC) 8hrs 48mins 31secs
2. Lance Armstrong (US/ Discovery Channel) +2"
3. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun/Credit Agricole) +47"
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz/ T-Mobile) +53"
5. George Hincapie (US/Discovery Channel) +57"
6. Floyd Landis (US/ Phonak) +1:02"
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi/Fassa Bortolo)
8. Jens Voigt (Ger/Team CSC) +1:04"
9. Vladimir Karpets (Rus/Illes Balears) +1:05"
10. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa/Liberty Seguros) +1:06"