Alexandre Vinokourov has made it clear he is on track for the Tour de France with a convincing stage win in the Anneyron time trial of the Dauphine Libere, moving into the overall lead. But the good news didn?t stop there for the Astana team: the Kazakh?s team-mate Andrey Kashechkin is now second overall after taking second in the time trial.
After the second check-point on a baking hot day in the Drome region of France, the only question was which of the two Kazakhs would take the stage and the lead.
Vinokourov, the 1999 winner of the Dauphine had clocked the best time split by far at both the first and the second checkpoint, but Kashechkin was a mere six seconds behind after 17.1 kilometres and five behind at the second. With Dave Zabriskie, last year?s winner of the same time trial stage, already 19 seconds adrift, it was still possible that one of the two Astana riders might crack ? but not both.
In the event, neither had any problems in the final run-in of the hilly time trial, allowing Astana to take the top two places on both the time trial and the overall lead. However, Vinokourov?s nine second advantage over Kashechkin on the stage and two second advantage on the overall gives the Kazakh team a numerical and psychological edge on their rivals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vinokourov told reporters afterwards that he would prefer Kashechkin, six years his junior, to win the Dauphine.
?My only dream I have left to achieve in cycling is a win in the Tour de France. I?ve already won the Dauphine and he is six years younger than me. If he wins here, then it?s a sign that after I?ve retired in a couple of years that Kazakh cycling will continue.?
As for the Tour, Vinokourov recognised that winning the Dauphine time trial ?is good news, because you can?t finish first in July without being good against the clock. It?s perhaps what I?ve been lacking so far to win the Tour before.?
Whilst Britain?s David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) took a respectable 10th, Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) finished 44th, 3-41 back.
?It?s a pity, we were hopeful he might have done better, but we knew this kind of time trial distance wasn?t really Brad?s thing.? Cofidis team manger Eric Boyer told CW. ?He didn?t have any problems or punctures, he just wasn?t on a great day.?
DAUPHINE LIBERE: STAGE THREE ANNEYRON – ANNEYRON
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 40.7 km in 52-08
2 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana at 9sec
3 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC at 38sec
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 39sec
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 40 sec
6 Stef Clement (Bel) Bouygues at 1-07
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 1-10
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery at 1-11
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 1-18
10 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 1-36
44 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis at 3-41
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 10-23-23
2 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana at 2sec
3 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC at 32sec
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 40sec
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 41sec
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner at 1-03
7 Stef Clement (Bel) Bouygues at 1-05
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 1-07
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 1-12
10 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 1-33
33 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Cofidis at 3-32.