Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) was unable to match Mark Cavendish's late burst of speed on the banks of the Garonne in Bordeaux but the Italian veteran made sure he finished third and so took back the green jersey from Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam), who was only a distant fourteenth.
Petacchi scored 26 points for third place and so now leads Hushovd by ten precious points.
With just the stage to Paris suited to the sprinters, he is now widely expected to win his first green jersey of his career. Petacchi revealed that he is ill but said he will fight for every point on the Champs Elysees.
"It's a huge satisfaction to get the green jersey again but I've been taking antibiotics for three days and I'm riding on my knees. I'm both very tired and ill," he said, still recovering from his sprint and before heading to the podium to pull on the green jersey.
"I went early in the sprint and I knew they'd pass me, but I didn’t want to be surprised and blocked in, especially with the headwind making it more complicated. I had to score points for the green jersey, that's my big goal. I was prepared to lose the sprint, as long as I beat Thor and scored more points than him. I did that today."
"It'll be a real fight in the intermediate sprints and in the final sprint on Sunday but if I lose this green jersey, I'll lose with honour."
Petacchi has been defending his honour since last Tuesday when it was revealed he has been formally placed under investigation by Italian police for doping. He has been accused of using banned oxygen transporting drug Pfc and albumin, which helps reduce blood haematocrit.
He will be questioned by the Italian investigating judge in Padua next Wednesday but insists he can hold his head high if he wins the green jersey in Paris.
"I don’t think it will change anything if I win the green jersey. The Tour de France ends on Sunday and when I get home we'll see what happens," he said.
"It's part of another chapter of my career. I'm here for now and trying to do as well as I can. I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm proud of the Tour I've done and of the work the team has done for me. The jersey is there to be won. I'll fight all the way and then deal with everything else."