Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana, banned from the Tour de France for the past two years after testing positive for an illegal blood transfusion in 2007’s race, claimed his first stage win in this year's race in Revel this afternoon, attacking inside the closing kilometres and riding away to claim what in the end was a comfortable victory.
The Kazakh, third in Mendes yesterday after being involved in a day-long breakaway, made his decisive move some 8km from the finish in response to an attack shortly beforehand from BMC Racing’s Alessandro Ballan, world road race champion in 2008.
The Italian had got off the front of the peloton as the race headed up the day’s final climb, the Category 3 Cote de Saint-Ferréol, but Vinokourov quickly caught and passed him, succeeding where other riders, including Nicolas Roche of AG2R-La Mondiale, had tried and failed.
With victory all but assured by the time he passed under the flamme rouge, Vinokourov, winner of two stages in the 2007 Tour before his failed test came to light, crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of a chasing bunch led home by HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish, who took the sprint from Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre-Farnese Vini.
The latter is now back in the lead of the points classification, taking the green jersey by two points from Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam, once again off the pace in the sprint as he took eighth place on the stage. Cavendish, who now has just two more chances of stage wins in Bordeaux next Friday and on the Champs Elysées two days later, lies third, a further 23 points back.
Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank retains the race leader's yellow jersey, 31 seconds ahead of Vinokourov's team mate and defending champion Alberto Contador, after both kept out of trouble and came home with the bunch following today's 196km stage, which got under way in Rodez.
The last time a stage finished in Revel, in 2005, Paolo Salvoldelli of Discovery Channel was the victor, beating CSC’s Kurt-Asle Arvesen within the final kilometre, the pair being the sole survivors of a day-long escape. The Italian had won that year’s Giro d’Italia, but was riding the Tour as a domestique for Lance Armstrong who was on his way to his winning seventh and last maillot jaune.
Today also saw a break that managed to stay away for most of the stage, but this time the escapees, Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha, Perrick Fedrigo of Bbox Bouygues Telecom and Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step were not allowed to establish too much of an advantage, with HTC-Columbia in particular working hard to set up a sprint finish for Cavendish, although the attacks from Ballan and then Vinokourov meant that was not to be.
The race now heads into the Pyrenees for four stages that will go a long way towards determining who will occupy the podium places in Paris. Two of those have summit finishes, the first being tomorrow’s stage to the ski resort of Ax 3 Domaines, which ends with a 10.5km climb at an average gradient of 8.2%.
That ascent is immediately preceded by the Hors-Categorie Port de Pailhères, a climb of more than 50km which starts off gently as the race hits the River Aude near Quillan but just gets steeper and steeper, with sections of more than 10% over the summit.
Although the Tour first went up the Pailhères only in 2003, the year of its centenary, it has already carved itself a place in Tour history following a dramatic race that day with Jan Ullrich going on the attack against Armstrong, who managed to dig in deep to recover and finish fourth on the stage, which was won by Carlos Sastre, to retain the yellow jersey.
Organisers will be hoping for a similarly thrilling stage tomorrow as the Tour begins to mark the 100th anniversary of its first visit to the Pyrenees.
Top 20 Tour de France 2010 Stage 13 result
1 VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA 4h 26' 26" 2 CAVENDISH Mark TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA + 00' 13" 3 PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE-FARNESE + 00' 13" 4 HAGEN Edvald Boasso SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 13" 5 ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 13" 6 DEAN Julian GARMIN-TRANSITIONS + 00' 13" 7 GESLIN Anthony FDJ + 00' 13" 8 HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM + 00' 13" 9 BOLE Grega LAMPRE-FARNESE + 00' 13" 10 MONDORY Lloyd AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 13" 11 CIOLEK Gerald TEAM MILRAM + 00' 13" 12 MAASKANT Martijn GARMIN-TRANSITIONS + 00' 13" 13 ROELANDTS Jürgen OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO + 00' 13" 14 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI + 00' 13" 15 MOREAU Christophe CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 13" 16 GARATE Juan Manuel RABOBANK + 00' 13" 17 ELMIGER Martin AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 13"
18 MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 00' 13"
19 ARASHIRO Yukiya BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 00' 13"
20 FREIRE Oscar RABOBANK + 00' 13
Overall standings after Stage 13
1 SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK 63h 08' 40" 2 CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 31" 3 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI + 02' 45" 4 MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 02' 58" 5 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO + 03' 31" 6 LEIPHEIMER Levi TEAM RADIOSHACK + 04' 06" 7 GESINK Robert RABOBANK + 04' 27" 8 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin TEAM KATUSHA + 04' 58" 9 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 05' 02" 10 KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 16" 11 BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 30" 12 VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 06' 12" 13 HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-TRANSITIONS + 06' 25" 14 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 06' 44 15 SASTRE Carlos CERVELO TEST TEAM + 07' 34" 16 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PRO CYCLING + 07' 39" 17 ROGERS Michael TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA + 07' 47" 18 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 08' 08" 19 LÖVKVIST Thomas SKY PRO CYCLING + 08' 24" 20 KLÖDEN Andréas TEAM RADIOSHACK + 09' 05"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.