Filippo Pozzato only just beats Oscar Freire
Pozzato had said he wanted to win stage 5, and this he did
Alexandre Vinokourov, blood dripping from both knees, is not happy
While Liquagas’ Filippo Pozzato won the sprint finish into Autun, potential Tour winner Alexandre Vinokourov languished 1min 20sec behind.
Predicted by many to be a real contender for the overall victory, Vinokourov got a shock when, crashing with 25km remaining, he lost contact with the peloton. Calling the whole team back, aside from Andreas Kloden, the Astana team were forced to chase hard of a peloton that was beginning to up the pace.
But if Vinokourov had a shock, yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara’s (CSC) heart must have skipped several beats when, overshooting a corner, he went off the road and onto a grass verge. He was following an attack by Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery), who chose the technically challenging descent of the top of Cote de la Croix to go. Cancellara decided to go after Popovych, and only succeeded in following the Discovery rider of the road when he hit one of the many tight bends too fast.
With the bunch back together heading into Autun, Team Lampre were controlling proceedings. This high pace didn’t deter Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) to attack, quickly followed by David Millar. Their desperate dash for victory didn’t amount to much however, and the Lampre team led the charge into the final kilometre.
The final few hundred metres was manic, but it was Filippo Pozzato dropping the hammer, leaving both Oscar Freire (Rabobank ) and Daniele Bennati (Lampre – Fondital) for dust. No sight of Tom Boonen (Quickstep) or Robbie McEwen (Predictor – Lotto), the hills clearly taking their toll on the pair.
Vinokourov impressively reduced his deficit to 1min 21sec when he crossed the line, having used up all his team mates to reduce the gap. There’ll be a tense atmosphere in the Astana team bus tonight as Vinokourov rues the significant loss incurred on this stage, especially with the race heading towards the Alps on Saturday. Asked after the stage how this setback might effect his overall chances, he said: “The race isn’t lost,’ and as for why he crashed, he only commented, “I don’t know, my chain came off.”
It’s a big gap, and Astana do have another option in the shape of Andreas Kloden. But the team are unlikely to panic and Vinokourov will no doubt be planning where he can make back the time. We sense a tasty attack in the Alps as he attempts to stamp his authority on the general classification.
As for Fabian Cancellara, he remains in yellow with a 33 second lead. Asked about Vinokourov’s crash, he said: “It’s not nice when you crash, but it’s a bike race. Today was a nervous stage, lots of up and down. A lot of riders were tired, but it’s a bike race.”