Vinokourov strikes from long range

The most surprising absence from the main event yesterday, Alexandre Vinokourov is back to his attac

The most surprising absence from the main event yesterday, Alexandre Vinokourov is back to his attac

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

Alexandre Vinokourov won the second of three Tour de France stages in the Alps, breaking away early in the stage in a small group and then beating his former T-Mobile team-mate Santiago Botero easily in a final two-up sprint in Briancon. The pair finished 1-15 up on the yellow jersey group, which was led in by Christophe Moreau, with Lance Armstrong not too far behind him in sixth place after what was, thanks to the work of his Discovery Channel team-mates, a relatively comfortable day considering the terrain.

A couple of days ago, there would have been no earthly chance of Vinokourov being allowed any room to manoeuvre by Discovery, but so far did the Kazakh fall down the standings yesterday (to 16th place at 6-32) that there was little reaction from the yellow jersey and his team when Vinokourov skipped away on the early slopes of the Col de la Madeleine.

At that point, with little more than 30km covered, the race was being led by the little and large combination of Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Thor Hushovd (Crdit Agricole), who were six minutes ahead. With Vinokourov in a strong-looking group were Botero, who won in Briancon in the 2000 Tour, Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Chris Horner (Saunier Duval).

After Hushovd was caught and dropped, Heras, Mancebo and Horner fell back a few kilometres from the top of 25km-long Madeleine, where Botero was first man over. There was barely time to recuperate after the steep drop from the climb, before what was now a leading quartet of Botero, Vinokourov, Pereiro and Martinez were climbing again, this time up the Tlgraphe.

Martinez and Botero were soon dropped here as Vinokourov pushed the pace up with the yellow jersey group just two minutes behind. But the Colombian recovered quickly and led over that climb, with the yellow jersey group now three minutes down.

The briefest of descents carried the leading trio onto the first slopes of the Galibier, at 2645 metres the 'roof' of the Tour. This time Pereiro was dropped first, then Botero as Vinokourov pressed again. But the Colombian hung in stubbornly and was only 40 seconds behind at the summit. The yellow jersey group came through 2-30 down, with mountains leader Michael Rasmussen at the front.

From there it was 40km plus into the finish, all of them downhill and many of them very fast indeed. Botero took advantage to catch Vinokourov, and then it was just a question of how much time they would have in hand as they sized each other up for the final sprint.

In the end, it was plenty. Botero led the way into the final kilometre, with the Kazakh to his left. Vinokourov attacked 200 metres from the line and it was all over almost instantly, as it always likely to be.

Vinokourov and T-Mobile had struck back, but hardly in a manner that will have Armstrong and his team fretting over their pasta tonight. It was almost as if the German team had jumped on a titbit thrown away by Armstrong and his team-mates, but had also realised it wasn't a whole lot to get excited about as far as the bigger picture is concerned. In fact, perhaps the best news for them was not Vinokourov's win but Jan Ullrich's apparent comfort in following Discovery's pace.

Stage 11, Courchevel-Briancon

1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 173km 4.47.38 (36.09kph)
2 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak 0.01
3 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole 1.15
4 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
5 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
9 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
10 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
11 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears
12 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
13 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
14 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
15 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
16 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
17 Jrg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros
18 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Crdit Agricole
19 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
20 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile

22 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC
24 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
34 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval 7.32
44 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 17.02
47 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 22.35
101 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Liberty Seguros 31.15
108 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
109 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis

117 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r 39.46
129 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
142 Brad McGee (Aus) Francaise des Jeux
149 Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise des Jeux
155 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
157 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
159 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
160 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto

Overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 41.59.57
2 Rasmussen 0.38
3 Moreau 2.34
4 Basso 2.40
5 Valverde 3.16
6 Botero 3.48
7 Leipheimer 3.58
8 Mancebo 4.00
9 Ullrich 4.02
10 Klden 4.16
11 Landis
12 Vinokourov 4.47
13 Jaksche 5.33
14 Evans 5.55
15 Popovych 6.25
16 Kashechkin 6.32
17 Julich 6.37
18 Sastre
19 Mazzoleni 8.46
20 Rogers 9.10

23 Hincapie 12.15
28 Horner 15.22
38 Heras 28.46
42 Beloki 38.31
54 Mayo 48.51
65 McGee 56.59
68 O'Grady 58.36
113 Roberts 1.34.42
114 White
120 Rodriguez 1.41.16
121 Davis 1.41.30
138 McEwen 1.50.31
145 Cooke 1.53.44
157 Hunter 1.57.01
159 Gerrans 1.57.16

Points

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 133
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 128
3 O'Grady 109
4 McEwen 96
5 Vinokourov 81
6 Forster 75

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 160
2 Moreau 89
3 Botero 88
4 Vinokourov 71
5 Armstrong 40
6 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi

Young rider: Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
Team: CSC

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