By Jean-François Quénet in Annecy
Christophe Moreau surprised the cycling world by winning the Dauphiné, but perhaps equally surprising was the lacklustre performance of Astana's Tour de France hope, Alexandre Vinokourov, in the mountains. After taking the leaders' jersey in the stage three time trial, Vinokourov lost more than seven minutes to Moreau on the Mont Ventoux. All was not lost for the Kazakh star, and turning from team leader to domestique, he ushered his Spanish team-mate Antonio Colom to the win on stage five. He then surrendering another 11 minutes on the mountainous stage six before regaining his composure and winning the final stage in his trademark solo fashion.
Vinokourov dismissed any speculation that this race bodes poorly for his Tour de France. "Moreau is the only rider who has amazed me by how strong he is. He put two minutes on the other ones on the Ventoux and yesterday, he attacked strongly again. He was the most impressive rider in this race. In my opinion, he's already in too good a form."
The race may, however, change his plans for the rest of his pre-Tour preparation. At the beginning of the season, Alexandre Vinokourov told Cyclingnews that his pre-Tour de France plan was all set, including a trip to Kazakhstan for the national championship and a return by private plane directly to London for the start of the Tour. "Our sponsors want all the Kazakh riders from the team to ride the championship. It's important for our country so we'll do it," he said in March.
Today in Annecy, he said the plan might change. "I'm not sure if I'll be going to the national championship. It depends on the sponsors. We still have to talk." Vino said he'll take it easy at home after the Dauphiné. "Maybe I'll go in the Pyrenees or the Alps," he said. He hasn't reconnoitred the mountain stages as Lance Armstrong used to do, but the Kazakh enjoys keeping an air of mystery about his preparation schedule.
While his Dauphiné wasn't a personal success, it certainly was a huge victory for his Astana team of. "I know I had worked hard and well before the Tour," he said. "But maybe I didn't have total confidence in my team. During this Dauphiné, these doubts have been eliminated. Even if only four or five riders from the team here will be at the Tour as well, now I know that I can trust them for La Grande Boucle."