Alexander Vinokourov’s return to the Tour de France is complete. The controversial Astana rider, competing in his first Tour since being kicked out of the 2007 edition and serving a two-year suspension for blood doping, soloed to victory in Stage 13 on Saturday.
“Vino” attacked on a punchy 1.2-mile climb just before the finish and held on to win by 13 seconds over the charging peloton.
There was no change to the top of the overall standings on Saturday as all the main contenders finished in the main bunch. Yellow jersey Andy Schleck, of Team Saxo Bank, leads Alberto Contador by 31 seconds as the race heads into the Pyrenees tomorrow, with a likely reshuffling of the General Classification. (Full standings.)
The high pace near the end of the Stage 12 did claim some victims, however. Lance Armstrong lost contact with the peloton a few miles from the finish and rolled across the line in a 23-strong group of stragglers four minutes and 35 seconds behind the stage winner.
Vinokourov’s move in the finale denied HTC-Columbia speedster Mark Cavendish his fourth stage win of this year’s Tour. He had to be content with second place as he won the bunch sprint to move up to third in the points competition.
Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi finished third today and reclaimed the points leader’s green jersey from Thor Hushovd, who finished eight today. Cavendish is clearly the fastest of the three but trails his two rivals by just over 20 points after crashes left him unable to contest a couple of sprint finishes in the first week.
Tomorrow marks the start of the Tour’s most decisive stretch. Wednesday’s rest day will be the rider’s only break from four straight days in the Pyrenees. Two of those days will involve climbs up the brutal Tourmalet. With the Stage 19 time trial the only other opportunity to move up the GC, the next four days should provide one of the most action-packed stretches of Tour racing in years. Don't miss it.