PAU, France — Bradley Wiggins knows he’s well-positioned to win the Tour de France. But with the banged-up, frenetic, and weary pack nearing the final rest day of the three-week race, he wasn’t taking any chances Monday.
A hasty, nervous start to Stage 15 in the Pyreness foothills ultimately gave way to a stage victory by Pierrick Fedrigo. The Frenchman led a six-man breakaway as Wiggins played it safe — almost 12 minutes behind in the pack.
The 99-mile route from Samatan to Pau was a mostly flat layout that might favor a sprint finish, but teams with strong sprinters didn’t lay chase.
Fedrigo bolted from the breakaway group with about 4 miles left, with Christian Vande Velde the only rider able to keep pace. The American, not a sprint expert, lost the two-man dash.
Sprinters and breakaway specialists saw this course as one of their last chances to win a stage, knowing mountains and a time trial dominate the last five race days.
‘‘I thought the attacks at the start wouldn’t last so long. It went on for almost two hours, but the terrain took its toll,’’ Wiggins said, referring to the deceptively hilly route. ‘‘There are a lot of tired bodies out there.’’
From the outset, Wiggins was cautious. He noticed a ‘‘little problem’’ with his bike, got off, and chucked it onto the roadside as his Team Sky staff quickly fetched another.
‘‘I changed it right away because I preferred doing that than taking a risk if the race went all out after that,’’ Wiggins said.
Overall, Wiggins leads second-place teammate Christopher Froome by 2:05. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is third, 2:23 behind, while defending champion Cadel Evans remains fourth, 3:19 back.
Wiggins finished 11:50 behind Fedrigo in the main pack. The 32-year-old Team Sky leader is looking to become Britain’s first winner of cycling’s showcase race.
Wiggins said he and other riders were looking forward to Tuesday’s rest day.
‘‘A lot of people are tired now, mentally more than physically,’’ he told French TV. ‘‘It was hard today nonetheless. It was quite hot. And the road was hilly.’’