Spain's Alberto Contador won the 14th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, pipping Denmark's Michael Rasmussen, who retains the leader's yellow jersey.

Antonio Colom had led the way both as part of the escape group and then as an individual for much of the race, but was caught by Tour leader Rasmussen and Contador with just over three kilometres to go.

It was then a head-to-head race between the pair but although the Dane put the hammer down to try and break his rival, youngster Contador kept right on his tail, refusing to provide cover and eventually out-sprinting him on the final turn to take his first stage win of the Tour.

Rasmussen's efforts helped him extend his lead in this year's race with Contador now his closest challenger, 2 minutes and 23 seconds back, and he also held onto the lead in the race for best climber.

Australia's Cadel Evans came seventh to drop to third in the overall standings but it was a bad day for Alexandre Vinokourov who, after breaking back into the top 10 by winning stage 13's time-trial, finished over 28 minutes shy to plummet to 30th.

The Kazakh had been the favourite in the build-up to Le Tour.

Contador kept the white jersey as the best-placed rider under 25 and further enhanced his chance of becoming Lance Armstrong's heir in the Discovery Channel team.

And he described his first ever stage win as a ‘dream’.

He said: ‘Winning a stage like this with so many spectators is a dream for me.

‘Rasmussen and I worked together until the last kilometre and then we fought over the sprint.’

The fight saw Rasmussen leading until being passed just short of the finish, despite requesting that Contador overtake him and do his share of the work at the front, but the Rabobank rider insisted there were no hard feelings.

The Dane said: ‘When we saw Sastre and Evans were in trouble we tried to make them suffer - both of us were united in that.

‘This is the Tour de France and you give nothing away and you have to fight to the finish and Contador deserved to win.

‘There is a long way to go to Paris.’

On the first of three days of Pyrenees climbing, six men formed the initial breakaway, five of them Spaniards, at the 13km mark.

They led the peloton by over 11 minutes at one stage but that lead had been cut to just under three minutes by the start of the second Hors Categorie climb which led to the finish.

Colom broke away from his compatriots halfway up the ascent and led the stage with 13km to go.

But a chasing pack of around 20 riders were closing fast and 5km from the finish Rasmussen and Contador escaped, taking just 1.5km to catch Colom.

The exertions of stage 13's time-trial didn't seem to have affected Rasmussen as he found an extra gear to try to break away from his young shadow, but Contador held his ground with seeming ease before racing around his opponent to snatch the win. 

Leading positions after 14th stage Mazamet - Plateau-de-Beille (197km):

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 5hrs 25min 48secs, 2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank at same time, 3 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld at 0.37, 4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at 0.40, 5 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC at 0.53, 6 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana  at 1.52, 7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto at same time, 8 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Astana at 2.23, 9 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana at same time, 10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at 3.06.

General Classification After Stage 14:

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 64hrs 12min 15secs, 2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at 2.23, 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto at 3.04, 4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at 4.29, 5 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 4.38, 6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC at 5.50, 7 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana at 6.58, 8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi at 8.25, 9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 9.45, 10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at 10.55.