Alexandre Vinokourov marked his comeback to the Tour de France today in Revel with a stage win. The Kazakh marked three years since he last astonished fans with his aggressive wins that were subsequently tainted by a blood doping positive.
“Staring the race was already an important step for me,” Vino explained. “So this win means a lot.”
Vinokourov nearly won yesterday after an all-day escape, which was caught by team leader Alberto Contador and Luis León Sánchez in the last kilometre. He bounced back today, though, three years after leaving the Tour de France in disgrace.
In 2007, he led Astana at the Tour de France. He struggled, but came away with a time trial win over Cadel Evans and a mountain stage win in Loudenvielle. One day later, he tested positive for a blood transfusion.
Vinokourov never confessed to doping, but said that he would retire after he was caught. He only received a two-year suspension when the UCI heard he planned to return.
Contador joined the team while Vinokourov was away, though he and Astana were not allowed to race the 2008 Tour de France. He instead went on to win the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España that year.
Vinokourov said at the start of this year that he is at the Tour de France only to help Contador win the overall. Yesterday and today, though, he was allowed his freedom for a stage win.
“After the stage, you could see that he [Contador] was happy for my win,” added Vinokourov. “It’s an important win for the whole team ahead of four mountain days in the Pyrenees.”
Contador trails Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) by 31 seconds in the overall classification.
HTC-Columbia had hoped the stage ending in a sprint for Mark Cavendish. It worked in the final kilometres, but the Saint-Ferréol climb with 7.5 kilometres to go proved too much. Vinokourov slipped away after an attack from Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne).
Cavendish secured the sprint for second, taking 30 points and moving within 25 points of the green jersey and sprint classification leader, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre).
“When Vinokourov went, he went so, so fast. It was an incredible ride from Vinokourov. He deserved the win and to hold off the peloton, it was a very impressive ride. I had to settle for second,” said Cavendish.
“We can be satisfied with second. It’s about minimising my losses now. I lost a lot of points in that first week and it’s just about minimising my losses and seeing where we go when we get to Paris.”
Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha took points in both of the two intermediate sprints today. He joined an early escape with Frenchmen Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and winner of two stages in this year’s Tour de France, Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step).
Their move lasted until the final ten kilometres, just prior to the Saint Ferréol climb.
“It was not the goal to be in the breakaway today,” said Flecha. “But we had to be in the front in case a good breakaway was going and I was there and I was feeling good today.”
He said he had thought about his only other Tour de France stage win during the race. When he won just 50 kilometres away from Revel in Toulouse ten years ago, in 2003.
Tour de France 2010, stage 13: Rodez to Revel, 196km
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
2. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 13sec
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at same time
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Transitions
7. Anthony Geslin (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
8. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
9. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
10. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
Overall classification after stage 13
1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 31sec
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-45
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-58
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 3-31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack at 4-06
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 4-27
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha 4-58
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne 5-02
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 5-16
16. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 7-39
Points classification: Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
Mountains classificaton: Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Best young rider: Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
Mark Cavendish wins sprint for second place
Andy Schleck safely in yellow
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