Sylvain Georges won the sixth stage of the Tour of California after a daring solo ride through the mountains.
The Frenchman found himself out alone in front for the last quarter of the 186.3 kilometre stage from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake after leading a seven-man breakaway.
"“For me it's the most beautiful victory of my career," said Georges.
"I've never arrived solo for victory like this and it was incredibly special. It's a beautiful race with all the big teams."
Georges managed to hang on as the main field started to reel him in over the closing stages as he pedalled his way to the end of the lung-bursting trip, crossing the line after five hours, seven minutes and six seconds.
Georges finished 28 seconds ahead of Slovakia's sprint specialist Peter Sagan, who won each of the first four stages of the tour with his bursts of speed, but surrendered the overall lead to American Daniel Zabriskie in Thursday's decisive time-trial.
"The big leaders let a breakaway go," said Georges.
"After the second mountain sprint, I tempted fate and was able to hold it to the end. I didn't think they knew who I was."
Sagan's countryman Peter Velits came third in Friday's stage, while Zabriskie finished safely in the main pack to retain the leader's yellow jersey.
With two stages to go, Zabriskie led his countryman Tejey van Garderen by 34 seconds. Robert Gesink of the Netherlands remained third, a further five seconds adrift.
The eight-day event resumes on Saturday with the penultimate stage of the eight-day event, another gruelling mountain climb over 126 kilometres from Ontario to Mt Baldy.
The Tour ends on Sunday with a shortened but glitzy stage from Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles.