One day after missing out in Mende, the Kazakh escapes in the closing stages
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) won the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France between Rodez and Revel after attacking over the top of the final climb and staying clear on the descent. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) led the peloton home 13 seconds behind the lone Kazakh, with Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) in third at the end of the 196km stage.
After the peloton chased down a stage long breakaway, the race sprung to life on the Côte de Saint-Ferréol with 7.5km to go.
“It’s nice to win here again and it was a good victory,” said Vinokourov after his 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.
“Yes,” replied to a question about whether he could assure the French public that he was now riding clean. “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,” he added, “but I don’t want to talk anymore about 2007.
“I rode well in the breakaway and was great today and I’m happy.”
The sprinters' teams don't let the breakaway get too far
The breakaway of the day was formed when double stage-winner Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) escaped with Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouyges Telecom) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) after 4.5km. Pavel Brutt (Katusha) tried to bridge across to the trio, but was unable to make it and drifted back to the peloton.
By the time Chavanel led the trio over the summit of the 4th category Côte de Mergals after 24km, their lead was up to 6 minutes. Left behind in the peloton, polka-dot jersey wearer Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouyges Telecom) and second place in the competition Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), were unable to continue their battle for mountain points.
6 minutes was all that the three breakaways, all of whom had won stages in the Tour before, were to be allowed. The HTC-Columbia and Milram teams began to reduce the deficit; this stage being the last chance for sprinters Mark Cavendish and Gerard Ciolek before the race hits the Pyrénées tomorrow.
Both teams were quite happy for the three riders to stay away for the time being though, as pulling them back might open the door for another move. Green jersey wearer Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) and big rival Petacchi were quite happy to see the intermediate sprint points go to other riders so both could concentrate on the stage finish.
As Fedrigo lead the break across the line for the fist intermediate sprint in Saint-Jean-Delnous, after 47km, the deficit was cut to 5’10”. The gap was to remain at around 5 minutes for some time, as the trio worked cooperated well and the HTC-Columbia controlled the peloton.[
Halfway through and the lead begins to drop
As the stage entered its mid point, after passing through the feed zone in Lombers, the gap began to steadily reduce; not before Vinokourov and Katusha’ Serguei Ivanov jumped off the front of the peloton, seemingly for fun, and were quickly caught again.
In the village of Lautrec, the village that gave its name to the famous Belle Epoch artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, with 87.5km to go, the lead was down to 4’40”; with 75km to go it was down to 4’10”, and with 50km it had been cut to just 2 minutes.
Flecha led across the second sprint in Caraman with 38km to go, with the trio’s advantage just 1’07”. HTC-Columbia and Milram were still working well together and with 20km to go they had reduced the deficit to just 33 seconds.
Lampre-Farnese Vini moved forward once more to help with the chase, but to avoid counterattacks so close to the finish the gap was kept fairly constant at around 30 seconds. With 15km to go the lead was still 29 seconds, but on the long, straight roads the peloton had the leaders in sight.
On the approach to the climb a number of riders began to move forward. The US champion’s jersey of George Hincapie (BMC Racing) was visible transferring his teammate World champion Cadel Evans forward. Also could be seen the French champion’s jersey of Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouyges Telecom), as well as green jersey Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), who came to the front to sit behind Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia).
With crosswinds hitting the peloton a number of splits began to appear in the field. One saw mountains leader Charteau left behind, giving him no chance of taking points on the final climb
The trio was finally caught as the race passed under the 10km to go banner, and riders began positioning themselves for the approaching 3rd category Côte de Saint-Ferréol.
The final climb is just enough to foil the sprinters
As the climb started Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) attacked, Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) chased him. The lanky former World champion looked un-catchable though, until Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) jumped across, caught him, and left him behind.
Voeckler attacked in pursuit of Vinokourov and chased him down the tricky descent, but the Astana rider’s legendarily fearless descending meant that the French champion had no chance of catching him. Voeckler was caught by the peloton with less than 3km to go, but Vinokourov still held a gap of 12 seconds. The Milram team was desperately trying to bring back the lone Kazakh actually increased his lead.
Into the final kilometre Vinokourov had a 15 second advantage over the peloton, which was organising itself for the sprint for second place. The Kazakh had time to sit up and look over his shoulders to make sure he was not about to be caught; he then zipped up his jersey and patted the name of his nation’s capital on its front as he crossed the line.
Roles were reversed in the peloton as the sprinters wound up their sprints. With Cavendish’s lead out man Mark Renshaw sent home, the Manxman positioned himself on Hushovd’s wheel as they came into the final few hundred metres. As Petacchi launched his sprint down the left side of the road Cavendish launched his down the right; the Manx Missile proved that he is still the sprinter to beat, even without Renshaw.
Hushovd could only manage 8th as he was swamped by the other sprinters, and Petacchi’s third place gives the Italian enough points to take back the green jersey once more.
The leaders in the overall classification finished together in the peloton and there are no changes at the top of the standings. Andy Schleck holds on to the yellow jersey, with a 31 second lead over Alberto Contador (Astana).
Result stage 13 1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Astana
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia @ 13s
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
5. Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin-Transitions
7. Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française des Jeux
8. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo TestTeam
9. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
10. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
Standings after stage 13 1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Team Astana @ 31s
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 2’45”
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank @ 2’58”
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 3’31”