Vinokourov wins Tour stage in late breakaway
Victoria's Hesjedal safely in main pack, sits 13th heading for mountains
Alexandre Vinokourov found redemption in his return to the Tour de France after a doping ban, winning the 13th stage Saturday by leading a bold solo breakaway at the end into Revel.
Mark Cavendish of Britain was second and Italy's Alessandro Petacchi was third, leading a mass sprint in the pack. They crossed the line 13 seconds behind the Kazakh star.
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg retained the yellow jersey by keeping pace with his closest challenger — two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, who trails the leader by 31 seconds in second place.
Vinokourov came into the stage tied with Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal for 12th, but now has a 13-second lead on the Canadian, who finished in the main pack at plus-13. Both are within striking range of a top-10 finish in the more than 170-racer field.
Michael Barry of Toronto also finished with the peleton, or main pack, but is well back in the standings.
Vinokourov looked back at the pack and thrust his arms skyward at the end of the 196-kilometre course from Rodez to Revel over five low-level climbs in four hours 26 minutes 26 seconds. He hugged Astana teammate Contador after the finish.
Held off pack
Vinokourov got out of the pack within the last 10 kilometres, overtaking an earlier breakaway rider, Italy's Alessandro Ballan, and then held off the pack on a late descent.
"It was a beautiful victory, a beautiful reward," Vinokourov said after the fourth Tour stage victory in his career.
Vinokourov, 36, who won the Tour of Spain in 2006, was kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France for blood doping in one of the biggest scandals of the doping-marred race that year.
The top standings didn't change because the main contenders crossed in the same pack.
"It was a good day for my team," said Schleck. "We didn't have to work. Today was calm — tomorrow is the battle. We're going to have a nice stage tomorrow."
Samuel Sanchez of Spain is third, 2:45 back.
Seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong cruised in a late-arriving bunch and finished 4:35 back in 100th place — the fourth straight day he's lost time to the leader. The 38-year-old American has said his victory hopes are finished. He's 36th overall, 25:38 back.
The race enters the Pyrenees on Sunday — the first of four days of punishing climbs in the mountains that will play a key role in who wins the three-week race at the July 25 finish in Paris.
The 184.5-kilometre ride from Revel to the ski station of Ax-3 Domaines will lead riders up two extreme climbs, first the Port de Pailheres — one of the toughest ascents in cycling — and an uphill finish.