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Phoenix from the ashes: Return of the 'Vino'

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

By Brecht Decaluwé in Albi

After an afternoon that was spoiled with rain showers, the skies opened up when the GC-favourites unleashed their forces near the beautiful city of Albi. Pre-Tour favourite Alexandre Vinokourov was one of the first to head out, and despite the fact that he still was riding on partly wet, roads he confirmed that the Astana move of stage 11 was the first sign of the Kazakh resurrection. The labourer from Petropavl plotted his way through the hilly and turning roads near Albi and at the finish he shattered the time of Bradley Wiggins, blowing the Britain's hope for an unexpected stage win.

In the shadow of St-Cecilia's cathedral in Albi la Rouge, as the city is often referred to, 'Vino' the Turquoise granted the media a few words on his time trial. "I'm happy with my performance, this is my revenge for Briançon," 'Vino' referred to the stage where he lost three minutes on his main GC-rivals. "I want to thank everybody who supported me to make it through the Alps. Now that I found my legs again, I want to attack in the Pyrénées; we have a couple of days left to do something," Vinokourov predicted firework for the upcoming stages.

When asked if the patron had returned to the peloton Vinokourov agreed. "Many people had already written me off already." Then the sober Kazakh general got back on his machine and rode to the team bus, guided by his faithful team-mates.

About an hour later, a dismayed Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was the last to cross the finish line; the Spanish rider was the favourite to take over the yellow jersey from Michael Rasmussen in the time trial but he found out that his TT-abilities are still not good enough to battle for the yellow jersey in Paris. On the other hand, there was Rasmussen, floating on his yellow cloud. The Dane rode the time trial of his life, keeping a minute of his overall lead against Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto)

At the post-race press conference a proud Vinokourov pointed out that he's not defeated yet. "'Vino' is back," the Kazakh rider said in his typical Russian-French mumbling. "I was very motivated for this time trial," he said.

The Astana leader then launched some pep talk. "Today the Tour really starts for me, it is not over yet," Vinokourov claimed. "I lost a lot of time in the Alps but the Tour is only over in Paris."

To read the complete feature, click here.

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