Vinokourov collapse spells end of Tour bid

23rd July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France, July 23, 2007 (AFP) - Kazakhstan's pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinkourov saw his Tour de France victory hopes collapse in a heap after a dramatic day of climbing during the race's 14th stage on Sunday.

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France, July 23, 2007 (AFP) - Kazakhstan's pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinkourov saw his Tour de France victory hopes collapse in a heap after a dramatic day of climbing during the race's 14th stage on Sunday.

Vinokourov had relaunched his bid for the yellow jersey with a defiant, winning time trial over 54km on Saturday to move up to ninth overall at 5min 10sec behind controversial race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark.

But after an unforgiving first day in the Pyrenees, Vino's German teammate Andreas Kloden will be named Astana's team leader.

The 33-year-old Vinokourov, who had battled with knee injuries since a crash on the fifth stage, was left trailing on the first serious climb of the Pyrenees - the Port de Pailheres - as the peloton ground out a punishing pace.

Britain's David Millar led a chasing group, which contained all the yellow jersey favourites and Rabobank climber Rasmussen, in a bid to try and weed out some of the rivals to his Saunier Duval team leader Iban Mayo.

However, it was Vinokourov, normally one of the strongest riders in the bunch, who was among the first to crumble.

The 33-year-old Astana team leader began showing signs of impending trouble by falling to the back of the group, from where he struggled to follow the wheel of Spanish teammate Daniel Navarro, who had dropped back to wait for him.

As Millar peeled off having done his turn of pace at the front, the Rabobank team of Rasmussen took over setting the tempo, which proved too much for Vinokourov.

By the time he had come over the summit of the 16km climb, he was five minutes behind the yellow jersey group and eight minutes behind a five-man group which had gone on an earlier attack.

From there, it just got worse for Vinokourov, who after his stunning victory on Saturday had proclaimed: "Today it was very important to show those people who ruled me out of the Tour that it's far from being over."

Vinokourov was involved in a bizarre crash on the way up to the Plateau de Beille. A flag being waved by a roadside fan got entangled in the wheel of Russian teammate Serguei Ivanov, and Vinokourov, behind him, also came crashing down.

After battling to the finish the Kazakh tumbled down the general classification from ninth to 30th and is now a massive 34:12 adrift.

Kloden, the runner-up in 2004 and who finished third last year, managed to stay with the yellow jersey favourites for most of the day's second big climb before falling back nine kilometres prior to the summit finish.

The German eventually crossed the line with Cadel Evans on his wheel at 1:52 adrift of Spanish stage winner Alberto Contador.

Kloden, who had been tipped as Astana's team leader as far back as the first week, is now fifth overall at 4:38 behind Rasmussen.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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