Morale boost for Vino in SpainClose
Victory on the final stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon in central Spain underlined Alexandre VinoPIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Alexandre Vinokourov gave himself a significant boost in his preparation for the Tour de France when he pounced in the final 500 metres to win the fifth and final stage of the Tour of Castilla e Leon in Segovia on Friday afternoon. The victory also wrapped up the overall title for the Kazakh. A breakaway group was caught just before the first run through the finish at Segovia, where Andalucia-Paul Versan's Juan del Olmo thumped his bars with frustration as he just failed to get across the line first. It was a good effort by the Spaniard, but unfortunately came a 12.5km lap too soon, and bigger names soon took over. The first to show was Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych, winner of stage two and almost certain to be one of Vinokourov's main rivals at the Tour. The Ukrainian went clear just after the start of that final lap with Euskaltel's Aketza Pe¤a. The pair cooperated all the way into the final kilometre, when Pe¤a attacked on the long, cobbled run up towards the finish through the historic Castilian city. Pe¤a looked odds on to give Euskaltel a long overdue and much-needed first win of this season as he pulled away from Popovych, but Vinokourov, wearing an unmissable mix of Kazakh sky blue and crimson as the race leader, emerged from the pack and was very quickly up to him. The Basque threw the Kazakh a plaintive look, as if to suggest that he be allowed to win the stage while the Liberty leader took the overall title, but Vinokourov was having none of that. A hundred metres out he started a sprint that the visibly disconsolate Pe¤a didn't even bother to contest and soon celebrating a concluding stage win. With his form coming quicker than he had expected, Vinokourov has decided to change his race programme. Instead of heading off to the US to contest next month's Tour de Georgia, the Kazakh has opted to stay in Europe to defend his Lige-Bastogne-Lige title. Vinokourov said after his Castilla y Leon victory that he thought the race had been "a good test. I've tested myself in the high mountains on passes of 2000 metres and I think I'm on a good path to the Tour. Even on the last stage we had to work hard on first-category climbs and that was always good preparation for the Tour, because it made this a very hard race." A race dominated, overall at least, by Liberty and Discovery Channel offered an intriguing footnote as the latter's Manuel Beltran picked up the climbers' title, the first such success for the Spanish mountain goat in his 13-year career.