What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour de France Stage 9: Vintage Vino’ Gets Winning Gap

Another blistering late surge by Telekom’s Alexander Vinokourov has netted him his first ever Tour de France stage win after another hot, hectic day of action. Behind him, though, Joseba Beloki, whose brave attacking helped ignite things on Alpe d’ Huez yesterday, crashed out of the Tour in horrifying style.

Vino’ came home 37” clear of the class of 2003, with all the main favourites barring Beloki finishing together, after launching himself on the final climb of the day up the Cote de la Rochette. He gained a small gap on the top men, and overtook the remaining breakaway escapees Angel Casero, Ivan Parra and finally Jorg Jaksche (who’d been the virtual Maillot Jaune after gaining 6 minutes), before plunging down the descent to the finish in Gap.

As the Kazakh flayed himself to the line, the front chase group was hurtling down behind him. Disastrously, Beloki slid off on a corner coming down hard on his hip. Armstrong, locked on the Spaniard’s wheel, had to cut off the course for an unscheduled cross-country trip, but somehow avoided crashing. As Lance got back on to the leaders, Beloki’s team-mates waited for him to recover.

Lying bleeding on the roadside, it became clear that Beloki’s Tour was over, and he was removed to hospital by ambulance. No word yet on his condition, but after he finally showed signs that he could pressure Armstrong yesterday of Alpe d’Huez, it’s a desperate blow for the Spanish climber to go out.

Armstrong contested the sprint for second, but had to give best to Paolo Bettini and Iban Mayo, as the top 10 takes on a fascinating shape before the Pyrennees. The improving Jan Ullrich hung in today, as did Basso, Zubeldia and the astounding Tyler Hamilton.

We’re now set for the most exciting week in the Tour since LeMond and Fignon went head to head back in 1989! With so many riders so close, and 3 Euskaltel riders in the top 11 places primed to explode things on the roads to Luz Ardiden, Tour racing won’t get much better!

Up front, Vino’ produced another super performance, deservedly adding an overdue Tour stage to his fantastic wins at Paris-Nice and the Amstel Gold Race in 2003. Now up to second, he is finally emerging from the Telekom shadows as the major Tour player he has threatened to become since winning the Dauphine Liberй in 1999.

And ominously for Armstrong, the Kazakh has closed to just 21 seconds behind on overall GC.

Stage 9 Results Bourg d’Oisans – Gap 184.5km

1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 5hrs 02’ 00”
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon + 36”
3 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor same
5 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi same
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo same
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner same
8 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com same
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same
10 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC same

Overall Classification after Stage 9

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 40hrs 15’ 26”
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom +21”
3 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi +1’ 02”
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com +1’ 37”
5 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC +1’ 52”
6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi +2’ 10”
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo +2’ 25”
8 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor +2’ 28”
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi +3’ 25”
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) iBanesto.com +3’ 45”

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