Mark Cavendish, the British sprinter, won his fourth stage of this year's Tour de France yesterday by edging out Tyler Farrar of the US, while Thomas Voeckler, the French rider, retained the yellow jersey.
The victory in the 15th stage was the 19th win on the Tour for the 26-year-old Cavendish. Alessandro Petacchi of Italy was third.
The mostly flat 192.5-kilometre route through vineyards from Limoux to Montpellier was expected to favour the sprinters, giving them a chance to shine again after three days of tough climbs in the Pyrenees.
"I had a lot of trouble in the mountains. It was difficult," Cavendish said.
"Today, it was a difficult, technical finish - there was wind on both sides and lot of bashing."
The breezy conditions reminded Cavendish of his native Isle of Man. "The wind today is the way it always is at home," he said.
Voeckler, a 32 year old with the Europcar squad, kept the overall lead that he first took in a crash-marred Stage 9 and surprisingly held through the mountains despite attacks from the main contenders.
"I am happy it was flat," Voeckler said of yesterday's stage in which he finished safely in the peloton.
The main contenders all played it safe on the wind-swept ride toward the Mediterranean and finished right behind the sprinters. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg remains second overall in the standings, a minute and 49 seconds back, while the two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans, the Australian, is third, 2:06 behind.
Alberto Contador, the defending champion, is seventh, four minutes adrift of Voeckler.
Five riders - all about two hours behind Voeckler - surged out of the pack at the 2km mark and built a lead of 4mins, 15secs at one stage.
But the pack, led by Cavendish, barrelled ahead before the intermediate sprint with 46km left to ride and narrowed the gap on the breakaway.
In that sprint, Cavendish went on to win the most points among contenders for the best sprinter's green jersey by nosing out Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain and Belgium's Philippe Gilbert.
Nicki Terpstra of the Netherlands was among the breakaway riders but was caught with only 3km left.
Today is the second and final rest day of the Tour for the field before the cyclists head into the foothills of the Alps for Stage 16 tomorrow, a hilly 162.5km ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap.