Vinokourov upsets sprint order

Alexandre Vinokourov denies the sprinters their day on the Champs Elysees with a strong late attack,

Alexandre Vinokourov denies the sprinters their day on the Champs Elysees with a strong late attack,

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

With Lance Armstrong enjoying his last day in the saddle as a professional cyclist and heading for a totally unprecedented seventh Tour de France victory, this was never likely to be a regular final day for the Grande Boucle. Wet conditions made for an unpredictable and crash-affected run into Paris, but the sun came out for the final lap on the Champs Elyses.

But just as the sprinters were gathering for their final fling, Alexandre Vinokourov launched himself away for one last offensive with 1500 metres remaining. Working initially with an Ag2r rider, the Kazakh responded to an attack by Brad McGee and got onto the Australian pursuit champion's wheel just inside the kilometre kite.

McGee, freed from the responsibility of working for his Francaise des Jeux team's out-of-form sprinters, gave it everything going up the final 400-metre drag to the finish, but ended up just setting Vinokourov up for the cheekiest of wins. The Kazakh jumped to the Australian's left with 200 metres remaining and had plenty of time to look back and see that the sprinters were well out of range before celebrating his second stage win of the race, and one that boosted him above Levi Leipheimer into fifth place.

McGee and Fabian Cancellara took second and third, with Robbie McEwen pounding his bars with frustration as he finished fastest of the sprinters in fourth, three places ahead of points jersey winner Thor Hushovd. The Norwegian became the first rider to win the green jersey without winning a stage of the race since Erik Zabel took the title in 1999.

The obvious focus for attention, though, was Armstrong, who was confirmed as the race's overall winner once the first lap of the Champs Elyses circuit had been completed. The wet conditions on the famous avenue's cobbled surface resulted in the organisers giving the whole bunch the same time at the end of this lap to avoid excessive nervousness later in the stage.

The day began with Armstrong and his team going through the usual preliminaries to the finish in Paris: Armstrong holding up seven digits to signify his latest and last Tour win, sharing champagne with his team-mates and receiving congratulations from all and sundry.

The early pace was easy, but Vinokourov spiced it up with an attack before the first of two intermediate sprints. His aim was the time bonus available here, and by finishing first at that sprint ahead of Leipheimer the Kazakh moved level with the American on time. Only milliseconds of difference between the two in time trials gave Leipheimer fifth place - at least temporarily.

Following the attacking mood, Philippe Gilbert pushed the pace as the peloton neared Paris, and Armstrong and his team-mates gathered to chase him down. This brief flurry ended unfortunately, with three Discovery riders, including George Hincapie and best young rider Yaroslav Popovych, sliding off into the kerb on a wet off-camber hill. They were quickly up and Gilbert was quickly ticked off by some older riders in the bunch, including Ivan Basso.

Hincapie and Armstrong led the field onto the Champs Elyses for the now traditional opening parade lap, before the attacks began. The best of them came from Quick Step's Bram Tankink and Saunier Duval's Chris Horner. They were at the front for 19km until reeled in by the sprinters' teams 5km from home. But attacks kept going even after they had been caught, underlining that these teams did not have total control. Vinokourov's final attack only emphasised that, and the 20 seconds bonus he gained on the line were more than enough to lift him into the top five overall.

Stage 21, Corbeil Essonnes-Paris Champs Elyses

1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 144.5km in 3.40.57 (39.24kph)
2 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
6 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
8 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
9 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux
10 Robert Frster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
11 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
12 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto

22 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
49 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
58 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
68 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
69 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
83 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
86 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
91 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
102 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
116 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
117 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
118 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
125 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
134 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank

Final overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 86.15.02 (41.65kph)
2 Basso 4.40
3 Ullrich 6.21
4 Mancebo 9.59
5 Vinokourov 11.01
6 Leipheimer 11.21
7 Rasmussen 11.33
8 Evans 11.55
9 Landis 12.44
10 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 16.04

14 Hincapie 23.40
17 Julich 24.08
33 Horner 1.07.57
41 Rogers 1.24.32
77 O'Grady 2.27.19
84 Davis 2.34.40
102 Roberts 2.54.12
105 McGee 2.55.59
123 White 3.23.41
126 Gerrans 3.27.03
132 Rodriguez 3.37.58
134 McEwen 3.41.52
142 Cooke 3.47.17

Points

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 194
2 O'Grady 182
3 McEwen 178
4 Vinokourov 158
5 Davis 130
6 Pereiro 118

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 185
2 Pereiro 155
3 Armstrong 99
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole 93
5 Michael Boogerd (Hol) Rabobank 90
6 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak 88

Best young rider: Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
Teams: T-Mobile

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