Omega-Pharma's Matteo Trentin handed Italy its maiden win of the 100th Tour de France, and the fourth to his Belgian team, when he sprinted to victory at the end of an entertaining 14th stage on Saturday.
Britain's yellow jersey holder Chris Froome, of Team Sky, came over the finish line with the main peloton and his chief rivals just over seven minutes adrift.
Froome did not come under attack during the undulating 191km ride from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule to Lyon and still leads Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Belkin) by 2min 28sec and Spain's former two-time winner Alberto Contador (Saxo) by 2:45.
A day after Froome lost 1:09 to both rivals, the overall contenders kept their powder dry ahead of Sunday's first summit finish at Mont Ventoux.
Froome's team chief Dave Brailsford said: "I think everybody has their mind on tomorrow already, looking forward to Mont Ventoux just as we are."
Although Froome would love to win atop one of the race's legendary climbs, he said his priority is stretching his lead over his rivals.
"I'm totally focused on the general classification, but of course it would be a dream to win at Mont Ventoux," said Froome, who won on the only previous summit finish of this edition at Ax-Trois-Domaines on stage eight.
Ahead of the next chapter in the battle for the yellow jersey, the undulating profile of the 14th stage gave ideas to plenty of riders and teams.
After a frenetic start, a group of 18 riders finally broke free and went on to build a maximum lead of nearly seven minutes on the main bunch.
Cracks in their collaboration began to appear, however, around 20km from the finish.
With two of the day's seven small climbs still to negotiate, Frenchman Julien Simon tried his hand and came over the summit of the 1.8km Duchere climb with a 20sec lead.
However the Sojasun rider's hopes of becoming France's first stage winner on this edition ended when he was caught by Swiss Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) just outside the final kilometre.
With the smallest budget in the race, Sojasun are used to trying to punch above their weight and Simon was disappointed at not having finished off the job to hand the hosts their first win of this edition.
"I'm disappointed, but I had to try. If you don't try, you can't win," said the Frenchman.
Attacks by veteran Jens Voigt (RadioShack) and German Simon Geschke (Argos) came to nothing and just as Albasini began powering towards the finish, Trentin opened up his sprint to come over the line half a wheel length ahead, with American Talansky even further back.
Trentin's win was the first for an Italian rider on the race since Alessandro Petacchi's two-stage haul in 2010, and was all the more remarkable as he is racing only his second Grand Tour having competed in the Giro d'Italia earlier this year where Mark Cavendish won five stages.
He said: "Today I just waited for the right moment. I saw it was windy and that anyone who sprinted before then would be at a disadvantage because the wind was too strong to sprint from longer than 200 m.
"I know that I can sprint good over 200m or a bit less. When I saw the 200 metre mark, I knew I had to go."
Normally a part of Cavendish's lead-out train, the 23-year-old Italian said his experience working for the 25-time stage winner had paid off.
"When you work alongside a rider like Cavendish, you learn a thing or two. I just waited patiently and unleashed my sprint with 100 (metres) to go," he added.
"We're all super happy. All my teammates came behind the podium to congratulate me and that was really nice."
Trentin's win means Omega-Pharma now have four stage wins following victories by Cavendish (two) and German Tony Martin, who won the stage 11 time trial.