He had celebrated victories before in the Tour de France but not all of them were considered true wins. Alexandre Vinokourov was denied the chance to race the Tour for two years but upon his return he has demonstrated that he is a rider who can’t resist the temptation to attack. He was third in stage 12, and earned the ‘Fighting Spirit’ prize but that didn’t satisfy the mastermind behind the acquisition of the Kazakh sponsorship consortium of the Astana team. He wanted to win again… and he did just that in Revel after a stunning attack on the final climb which spoiled the hopes of the sprinters who raced in to the town in the Tarn department with a deficit of 13 seconds to the reborn winner.
The Progress Report
The 196km 13th stage of the 2010 Tour de France, from Rodez to Revel, began at 12.48pm. There were 176 riders at the start. The conditions were considerably cooler than the previous few days with temperatures in the mid-20s at the start. On the undulating course in the Averyon and Tarn departments, there were five categorized climbs, they were at Mergais (cat-4 at 24km), Begon (cat-4 at 31.5km), Ambialet (cat-3 at 72km), Puylaurens (cat-4 at 125km) and the final climb on the circuit near Revel, the côte de Saint-Ferréol (cat-3, 7.5km from the finish). The intermediate sprints were in Saint-Jean-Delnous (47km) and Caraman (158km).
While the peloton was in the neutral zone, Armstrong (RSH) crashed but he returned to the bunch before the official start.
Three Former Stage Winners Break Free
At the 4.5km mark, Chavanel (QST), Flecha (SKY) and Fedrigo (BTL) attacked and although Brutt (KAT) tried to bridge the gap the original three escapees were able to gain a quick advantage on the peloton. At the 20km mark, the peloton was 4’55” behind. At the first climb, the escape trio worked up its maximum gain: 6’00” before Lampre came to the front of the peloton and started working to ensure that the escape didn’t gain enough of an advantage to stay away all day.
Taaremae (COF) abandoned in between the first and second climbs of the stage.
The average speed for the first hour was 45.2km/h and 42.6km/h for the second hour. The peloton carefully marked the escape, and the advantage steadily dropped down: 4’55” at 56km, 3’35” at 122km, 2’35” at 136km… and it was all because of the pace setting done first by Lampre, who were joined by HTC-Columbia and, with 100km to go, Roberts of the Milram team.
Vinokourov Rewarded For Aggression
The peloton caught the three escapees 10km from the finish but the sprint teams didn’t get things all their way. Yes, they would take points for the green jersey – with Cavendish leading Petacchi and Boasson Hagen over the line – but they were racing for second place because of the aggression from yesterday’s winner of the ‘Fighting Spirit’ award. Wearing the red ‘dossard’ as the most aggressive rider of a day earlier, Alexandre Vinokourov raced ahead of the peloton that had been led by the HTC-Columbia team until the foot of the final climb. A moment of hesitation prompted Ballan (BMC) to attack and he led Roche (ALM) and Barredo (QST) over the top of the hill 7.5km from the finish. Right behind was Cunego (LAM) and LL. Sanchez (GCE) and an inspired ‘Vino’… with the climb behind, Ballan collapsed, retreated to the peloton and was dropped. But Vinokourov blasted ahead and increased his lead until he was 20” ahead with 1km to go.
With his celebrations, he lost a couple of seconds but Vinokourov savored his first “true” stage victory in the Tour de France since the 2005.
Cavendish led the peloton home with a stunning sprint but he was 13” behind the stage winner. Still, he moved up the rankings in the green jersey competition that is led, once again, by Alessandro Petacchi who was second in the stage. There are only two points between Petacchi and former leader, Hushovd, while Cavendish is now 25pts behind the Italian rider from Lampre.
Andy Schleck finished the 13th stage in 51st place, with the same time as Cavendish. There is no change to the top order of the general classification and Schleck will wear the yellow jersey for the third Sunday of the 2010 Tour.
He knows it will be hard to keep the lead in the climbing classification but Anthony Charteau remains optimistic as the Pyrenees lie on the horizon…
“Surely tomorrow will be very difficult. But it will be necessary for me to go in a breakaway if I want to keep the polka-dot jersey. In Avoriaz I saw that I was able to finish in the top 20, so I must do to that again in order to succeed and claim maximum points on the mountains.
“I’ve had to spend a lot of energy to keep this jersey, but the team helped me get there. Physically I am not very far from breaking, but I feel that I still have enough in my to be able to properly cross the Pyrenees.”
Together with two other former Tour stage winners, Juan Antonio Flecha put himself in the escape of stage 13 at the five kilometer mark. After 181km of collaboration with Pierrick Fedrigo and Sylvain Chavanel, the Spaniard was caught by the peloton but he takes inspiration from the effort.
“When you’re in an escape, you never think about if you can make or if you cannot make it. You just focus on what you’re doing at the moment. Once you’re in the breakaway, who knows if it’s possible. The truth is that you’re out there and you’ve got to have hope otherwise it’s not worth fighting for.
“What was important is that we tried, we tried hard. We were in the breakaway, then with Edvald in the sprint and we still protected Bradley the whole way. It wasn’t an easy day for the bunch with crosswinds and everything. We don’t talk about disappointment today. Yesterday was a little frustrating because it was a big breakaway that went up the road with no one from our team there. There’s no reason to blame us because sometimes you need a little bit of luck as well as strength to stay away.”
There were splits in the finale of stage 13 that included a former winner of the Tour but Lance Armstrong is no longer a rider with hopes of winning the title. That is now the domain of two main contenders the current race leader Andy Schleck and the two-time champion Alberto Contador.
“Today was a nice stage for my team because we didn’t have to work too much. Still, I had to keep myself out of trouble and out of the wind. It was windy and the guys stayed up front with me and, at the end near the climb, it was fast but I told the team, ‘Thank you, take it easy now. I’ll be alright…’ so only Matti [Breschel] stayed with me and the rest of the team should take it easy because they’ve got a lot of work coming up. So do I, in the next few days.
“Tomorrow will be hard, of course but I’ve trained for it and I’m looking forward to riding up these mountains.
“I never said that I’d have liked two easy days before the mountains but we could call today ‘easy’ because the breakaway went quickly. It was clear that the riders were totally burned from yesterday. You could see it; when there were attacks at the beginning – the attack went 50 meters after the start and already there were guys near the front sitting down with legs full of lactic acid. I think it’s fun to see; we are all human. Some of the riders at the front of the peloton went up the road thinking they could make it to the lead group but the sprinters teams got organized behind and Vinokourov went ahead to put on a good show and hats off for that.
“I’m not sure if I’ll attack tomorrow… if I’m good, yes.
“Yesterday was a day for Alberto and today Vinokourov attacked and he actually made it to the finish… tomorrow it’s not up to him, it’s up to Alberto and me and others. Alexandre Vinokourov realized he is not going for the overall here but now he has a stage victory he’ll be going 100 per cent for Alberto.”
The last time Alexandre Vinokourov won a stage of the Tour de France was in 2007 when he was also awarded the prize as the most aggressive rider in the stage. He would later lose the title of stage winner and much of his credibility but today, yesterday’s ‘Fighting Spirit’ award recipient was the best. He insists this is “the new ‘Vino’…”
“It’s nice to win here again and it was a good victory. I’m very happy for my team, especially, because I think I helped give some good morale for the team. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t win yesterday but it gave us some good motivation and now we are ready for the three or four stages in the mountains.
- Question: You’ve been a away from competition cycling for two years and the last time we saw you at the Tour, it was because of your positive test. Can you give assurances to the public that you are changed as a rider and that you are riding clean?
“Yes. It’s like I said after the win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, ‘Vino is coming back. This is the new Vino’. With my victory there, I asked why I always must prove my reform. This is the new Vino and I think everybody understands that now. I must win my popularity in France and I think this victory in the Tour helps… but I don’t want to talk anymore about 2007.
“I rode well in the breakaway and was great today and I’m happy.”
Mark Cavendish was clearly the fastest of the sprinters but he has missed out on taking a fourth stage win in 2010. The top 10 for stage 13 is: 1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST 2. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR at 13" 3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM at 13" 4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY at 13" 5. Jose Joaquim Rojas (ESP) GCE at 13" 6. Julian Dean (NZL) GRM at 13" 7. Anthony Geslin (FRA) FDJ at 13" 8. Thor Hushovd (NOR) CTT at 13" 9. Grega Bole (SLO) LAM at 13" 10. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) ALM at 13"
Alexandre Vinokourov has now officially won four stages of the Tour de France. He won in Gap in 2003 and picked up two stage wins of the 2005 race. Now he’s a winner again in his first Tour since coming back from a suspension served in 2007...
The Astana team has claimed the 13th stage with Vinokourov taking the win 15" ahead of the peloton...
Sorry sprinters, but you don’t get what you want today. Vinokourov is going to win the stage. He led the bunch by 20" with one kilometer to go.
He won the prize for being the most aggressive rider in the 12th stage and now Alexandre Vinokourov has less than 1km to go before what seems certain to be his first "real" stage win since the 2003 Tour.