July 17, 2010

Alexandre Vinokourov finally gets his day in the sun as he takes the day from the sprinters and wins stage 13 of the 2010 Tour de France.
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

A day that would be glorious for the sprinters was ruined by Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) whose own glory was stolen on Friday's stage by his teammate Alberto Contador on the runway in Mende. The 13th stage of the 2010 Tour de France from Rodez to Revel dealt the riders 196km- a long however relatively flat day with 5 Category 3 and 4 climbs and two intermediate sprints.

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) taking his turn in the 3 man break on stage 13 of the 2010 tour de France.
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

As is typical on transitional stage a breakaway formed at 5 km. Stage winner Sylvain Chavanel Chavanel (FRA) Quick Step, Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) Team Sky and Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA) Bbox-Gouygues Telecom rode clear of the peloton most of the day. The gap stretched to just over 4 minutes at most and hovered in the 2 minute range until they were picked off with just under 10km to go in the race. With the sprinters' teams hard at work, including HTC-Columbia for Mark Cavendish, it was only a matter of time.

The  2km 6 % Category 3 climb of Côte de Saint-Ferréol provided the stage for the drama, and although the sprinters did hold their own on the climb, the attacks would persist. Current USA National Champion George Hincapie (BMC Racing) could be seen moving his way to the front of the peloton and appeared to be riding in support and protection of  Cadel Evans. However it was his teammate Alessandro Ballan who was launched on the attack.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese-Vini), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) would follow suit and each take their turn at making the break.

In the end, it was Vinokourov who broke free of the peloton and the aggressors to the top of the climb. Vino took the descent at top speed and was able to fend off the peloton all the way to the finish line clearly fueled by his loss in Mende Friday.

"For me, just to be at the Tour de France is a victory. So to win a stage makes me very happy," said Vinokourov, who served a two-year ban after being caught blood doping at the race in 2007. "This victory is also very important for the team's motivation, especially with four days in the Pyrenees remaining."

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) is the best of the rest as all the top sprinters have a go at the line.
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Sprinters Give the crowd a Show

The sprinters organized, and although unable to pip Vinokourov, made a spectacular bid to the finish. Mark Cavendish showed he needs no man to lead him out as he just sat on the wheels of the other sprinters before launching his incredible sprint. Cavendish took Petacchi by half a bike in the end.

In spite of missing out on a stage win, Cavendish was pleased with the day's efforts by his team. "At the end (of the stage) we weren't riding full gas," said Cavendish. "I had to use my team the whole day so I didn't have anyone, but if any of the other sprint teams wanted to take it (chase) up maybe we could have got him back. But he did a very impressive ride.  We didn't win the stage today... but it was an incredible ride by Vinokourov. He deserves that win."

In what has become the most exciting competition in the 2010 Tour de France, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese-VIni) takes the green jersey right off the shoulders of Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam), again.
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

The Green Merry Go Round

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) took the green jersey off the shoulders of  Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam)- yet again- by a mere two points. Hushovd crossed the line in eighth place to collect 18 points and now has a total of 185 points, with Petacchi on 187 and Cavendish on 162.

There was no change today for the race for yellow, white or polka dots jerseys.

Stage Results:
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) Astana
2. Mark Cavendish (GBR) HTC-Coliumbia at 13"
3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) Lampre-Farnese-Vini at same time
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) Team Sky at s.t.
5. Jose Joaquim Rojas (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne at s.t.
6. Julian Dean (NZL) Garmin-Transitions at s.t.
7. Anthony Geslin (FRA) Francais des Jeux at s.t.
8. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Cervelo TestTeam at s.t.
9. Grega Bole (SLO) Lampre-Farnese Vini  at s.t.   
10. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) Ag2R-La Mondiale at s.t.  

Overall General Classification after 13 Stages:
1. Andy Schleck (LUX) Saxo Bank in  63h08min 40sec
2. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana  at 31"
3. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) Euskatel-Euskadi at 2'45"
4. Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank at  2'58"
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 3'31"
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack at 4'06"
7. Robert Gesink (NED) Rabobank at  4'27"   
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha at 4'58"   
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne at 5'02"
10. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas-Doimo at 5'16"     

Stage 14 Preview
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Revel - Ax 3 Domaines - 184.5 km

The 2010 edition of the Tour de France celebrates 100 years of the Pyrenees beginning Sunday as the peloton takes on 4 days of the race's most difficult mountain range. The steepness of the Pyreneean climbs will break the peloton apart and separate the climbers from the rest of the pack. At kilometer 155.5 of stage 14, riders will first  face the "above" or "out of" category Hors Categors (HC) climb of the Port de Pailhères, a 15.5 km climb averaging 7.9 %. The climb into ski resort Ax-3-Domaines presents the Category 1 climb of 7.8 km of 8.2%.

This stage will set the tone for the rest of the Tour as Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador go head to head on the slopes. Expect to see heroic efforts from other climbers, perhaps even Lance Armstrong will make a case for a stage win in his beloved mountains. With over 20 km of intense climbing, this is a stage you will not want to miss.

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