Vinokourov shakes off weak effort, wins

He regains 1:15 in Stage 11, but only marginally cuts Armstrong's overall lead

Tour De France

July 14, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BRIANCON, France - It wasn't a ride for the yellow jersey and he probably still doesn't have a chance to beat Lance Armstrong, but Alexandre Vinokourov pedaled furiously up the mountains and then sprinted during the final descent, determined to win Stage 11 of the Tour de France yesterday and to validate the belief he has in himself.

A day after being left in the dust by Armstrong's ride to Courchevel, Vinokourov was able to regain 1 minute, 15 seconds of the more than six minutes he had lost to the Tour's overall leader, winning the 107.5-mile stage in 4 hours, 47 minutes, 38 seconds.

Armstrong finished 1:15 behind Vinokourov, keeping the yellow jersey and his 38-second advantage over second-place Mickael Rasmussen of Denmark. Christophe Moreau of France is third, 2:34 behind Armstrong, and Ivan Basso of Italy is fourth, 2:40 back.

There was more than 12,000 feet of climbing yesterday. The first big move came up the Col de la Madeleine, a 17-mile climb with a 6.1 percent grade. Vinokourov pumped his massive legs as if there were no tomorrow and left most of the field behind him.

And when he soared to the summit at Col du Galibier - at 8,677 feet the highest point of the Tour - he was riding alone, with only the whipping wind as his companion.

"Of course, I was very disappointed yesterday," Vinokourov said. "With how I did yesterday, I felt I had to attack today."

On the dizzying descent from Col de Galibier into Briancon, Vinokourov found himself in a race with Santiago Botero of Colombia, a former Armstrong teammate. In the last 250 meters, Vinokourov stood up on his bike and left Botero in his wake.

Vinokourov was asked if he thought Discovery Channel, Armstrong's team, had given him a gift of yesterday's stage.

"You'll have to ask Lance," he said.

Armstrong didn't really have an answer, either, though it has been rumored that Vinokourov, a 31-year-old from Kazakhstan who is in the final year of his T-Mobile contract, could be moving over to Discovery Channel next year and helping to fill the void Armstrong will leave after his retirement at the end of the Tour on July 24.

Vinokourov attributed his troubles Tuesday to the rest day that preceded it.

"I lost the rhythm in my legs," he said. "I only went for a 2-hour ride on Monday. That wasn't enough."

Vinokourov said it wasn't only for pride he attacked early and often yesterday.

"You can't wait until the last climb when you're riding against Discovery Channel," he said. "If you wait until the end, they have too much good rhythm and then you can't be first."

Armstrong finished in sixth place in the stage and said he was "satisfied" with his ride.

"We are in a good position," said Johan Bruyneel, the Discovery Channel team's director. "It's up to us now to defend things."

Armstrong said Vinokourov's stage win just happened.

"We have a list of priorities every day," Armstrong said. "Somebody who is 6 minutes behind is no longer a priority.

"We can't chase everybody. Our goal today was to ride conservatively and keep the team together. We did that.

"If Vino's goal was to win a stage, he was successful. If it was to blow up Discovery, it didn't work."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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