Alexandre Vinokourov?s roller coaster Tour de France continued with another spectacular dive on Sunday in the Pyrenees.
Vino was dropped five kilometres from the summit of the mid-stage Port de Pailheres climb and quickly sat up, clearly accepting that his chances of winning the Tour de France were over. The Astana team leader waved to the television cameras and climbed slowly to the summit, losing 8-16 in just five kilometres. On the climb to the finish at Plateau de Beille he lost even more time and then crashed after tangling with a spectator’s flag. He eventually crossed the finish line in one of the gruppetto, a massive 28-50 behind stage winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel).
It is unclear what caused Vino to crack so badly but his ‘defiance’ reflects poorly on his personal coach Dr Michele Ferrari. On Saturday he re-emerged as a Tour contender like a phoenix rising from the ashes by winning the 54km time trial stage. He pulled back more than six minutes on climbers such as Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) and warned that ?the warrior is back?. For some reason he has now hoisted the white flag on his Tour de France ambitions and is 30th overall, 34-12 behind Rasmussen.
The overall chances of Tour success for the glorious nation of Kazakhstan now seem slim after vino’s Astana team mates Andreas Kloden and Andrey Kashechkin also lost time. Kloden is now fifth overall at 5-58, with Kash now 7th at 6-58.