Stage 14: Saint-Girons - Loudenvielle - 191.5km.
Italian Gilberto Simoni salvaged a stage victory from a disappointing Tour de France as Lance Armstrong defended his slender lead on stage 14.
Simoni, winner of this year's Giro d'Italia, outsprinted Swiss rider Laurent Dufaux after a punishing second day through the Pyrenees, with Frenchman Richard Virenque third.
But the main move came from Alexandre Vinokourov, who staged a late assault on the final climb to reduce his deficit on Armstrong from over a minute to just 18 seconds.
The Kazakh remains in third place overall, with Jan Ullrich still second, 15 seconds behind the Texan, after the two main rivals finished together.
Simoni, who fell out of the overall reckoning in the Alps, later revealed he had been on the verge of quitting the Tour.
"Yesterday I wanted to go home, but my team manager told me to go on," the Italian said.
"I am happy I did. This win was a way of cancelling my bad Tour.
"It's a great feeling, especially after being humiliated (in the Alps)."
Vinokourov, who has won the Paris-Nice, the Tour of Switzerland and the Amstel Gold Race this year, came in
sixth, 41 seconds behind the leading trio.
Armstrong and Ullrich, duelling on the high-speed descents, came in a further 43 seconds back.
The 31-year-old American was made to work hard to keep the yellow jersey after Vinokourov's attack briefly saw the Telekom rider gain a lead of over a minute.
Ullrich (left) and Vinokourov have Armstrong in their sights
"It was a pretty full day," admitted Armstrong. "I felt a lot better than yesterday, where I was still suffering a bit from that disaster of a time trial (on Friday).
"Tomorrow is important - it's my big stage"
Simoni, Dufaux and Virenque, with Andrea Peron close behind, shook off the rest of a 17-man breakaway group that escaped the peloton after just four of the 191.5km stage.
The star of the six separate climbs was Frenchman Virenque, who finished second on the first, but won the next four and finished second on the final ascent.
After a memorable victory on stage seven in the Alps, he has now all but guaranteed a record-equalling sixth polka-dot jersey as 'King of the Mountains'.
Virenque has amassed 300 points, 137 clear of his nearest rival Dufaux, and stands on the verge of joining Spain's Federico Bahamontes and Belgian Lucien van Impe as
the only riders to have won the climber's title six times.
Stage 14 Result:
1 Giberto Simoni (Ita) 5hrs 31 mins 52 secs
2 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) same time
3 Richard Virenque (Fra) same time
4 Andrea Peron (Ita) at 3secs
5 Walter Beneteau (Fra) at 10 secs
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) at 41secs
7 Iban Mayo (Spa) same time
8 Steve Zampieri (Sui) same time
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) at 1:24
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) at 1:24