SAINT-ETIENNE, France -- Former world champion Mads Pedersen attacked from the start, then delivered in style on the finish line to claim his first stage win at the Tour de France on Friday.
After spending the day at the front, the one-day classic specialist attacked from a group of six riders with 12 kilometers left and dropped three rivals on the road leading to Saint-Etienne. He perfectly timed his final move about 250 meters from the finish to leave his two remaining opponents in his wake with a powerful burst of speed.
Fred Wright of Britain was second, and Hugo Houle of Canada completed the stage podium.
Pedersen was crowned world champion in 2019. He also won Gent-Wevelgem two years ago but had never tasted victory in a Grand Tour.
"I finally take the win I was looking for," Pedersen said. "Coming to the Tour, I knew my shape was good, but I missed the opportunities in the first week. I took my chance today. It's really nice to get the reward."
It's a very successful Tour for Danish riders, who have posted three stage wins since the start of the race in Copenhagen in addition to the yellow jersey taken by Jonas Vingegaard this week.
"I guess it's super nice to be a Danish guy at the moment," Vingegaard said.
Following two brutal days of racing in the Alps, Vingegaard enjoyed a quiet day in the pack, well protected by his Jumbo-Visma teammates. Two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar, who gave away the iconic tunic in the first big mountain stage at the Col du Granon, did not try anything to unsettle Vingegaard during the 193-kilometer Stage 13, which started in Le Bourg d'Oisans.
Their battle is expected to resume next week in the thin air of the Pyrenees mountains before the race ends in Paris in nine days. Overall, Vingegaard leads Pogacar by 2 minutes, 22 seconds. The 2018 champion, Geraint Thomas, was third, 2:26 off the pace.
Pedersen was the first attacker of the day amid a flurry of unsuccessful moves on large sections of road. A group of three riders finally went clear in the the short cote de Brie climb.
Two-time time trial world champion Filippo Ganna was first at the top ahead of Stefan Kung and Matteo Jorgenson. The trio was joined by Pedersen, Houle, Quinn Simmons and Wright.
They opened a gap of about two minutes as the peloton of main contenders looked happy to let them go after a frenetic opening hour of racing.
Sprinters' teams, however, remained vigilant and made sure the breakaway's lead did not grow too much.
Alpecin-Deceuninck and Lotto Soudal joined forces to set a strong pace until Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan missed a turn and crashed. The incident changed the dynamics of the stage, since Lotto-Soudal riders waited for their teammate, leaving the responsibility of the chase to others.
Back on his bike, Ewan found shelter behind a team's car and gradually made his way back, but the Cote de Saint-Romain-en-Gal climb proved too difficult and the diminutive rider was eventually dropped.
The breakaway group extended its lead to 3:30 until Team BikeExchange-Jayco riders decided to pull the peloton for ace sprinter Dylan Groenewegen. But it was too little, too late, and they gave up the chase once they realized they would never close the gap.