Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) charged back into overall contention in the Tour de France on Saturday by dominating the 54km time trial around Albi and pulling back huge chunks of time on all his big rivals.
Australia?s Cadel Evans (Predictor) was second, 1-14 slower than Vino and stopped an Astana one-two-three, but it was a scary performance from the boys in sky blue, with Andreas Kloden third at 1-39 and Andrey Kashechkin fourth at 1-44.
Michael Rasmussen rode what he described as the time trial of his life to keep the race leader?s yellow jerse but is only a minute ahead of Cadel Evans.Kloden is now fourth overall, 2-34 behind Rasmussen, Kashechkin is sixth at 4-23 and Vinokourov is ninth at 5-10. With Alejandro Valverde, Iban Mayo and Carlos Sastre struggling in the time trial, all three Astana riders are capable of winning the Tour de France, and with a combined team strategy, they could blow the race apart in the Pyrenees in the next few days.
Rasmussen tried to enjoy his best ever time trial performance but clearly knows he is racing under a dark cloud of doping suspicion.
He dismissed the problem of missed doping tests as an ?administrative error? but absolutely refused to answer questions about the accusations made by an American mountain biker Whitney Richards, who claimed in US magazine Velonews that Rasmussen asked him to transport performance-enhancing bovine haemoglobin to Italy in a shoe box in 2002.
Britain?s Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) finished fifth in the time trial, 2:14 behind Vino after topping the leader board for most of the stage. Wiggins had the fortune of racing half of the rolling course in the dry conditions but produced a determined ride.
?I didn’t expect much but had a great day. I went out and hurt myself. I?m pretty tired because we?re two weeks into the Tour now but I?m used to being in pain every day. Today it was a nice pain, that made me want more of it,? wiggins said.
David Millar (Saunier Duval) finished 1-13 behind Wiggins but was happy to race in the rain after struggling with a sun allergy in recent days. Welshman Geraint Thomas ?the youngest rider in this year?s Tour de France, also impressed, finishing 52nd. Charly Wegelius was 104th at 8-37 as he saved his legs for the three tough days in the Pyrenees.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2007: STAGE 13 RESULTS
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 54km in 1.06.34
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor 1.14
3 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana 1.39
4 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 1.44
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis 2.14
6 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 2.16
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel 2.18
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 2.38
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 2.39
10 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel 2.42
20 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval 3.27
52 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Barloworld 6.48
104 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas 8.37
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 13
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 58.46.39
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor 1.00
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel 2.31
4 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana 2.34
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 3.37
6 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 4.23
7 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC 4.45
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel 5.07
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 5.10
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team 5.29
83 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval 1.10.39
88 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas 1.12.40
135 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis 1.37.02
161 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Barloworld 1.54.40