(BBC) Alexandre Vinokourov won stage 13 of the Tour de France after a late breakaway on the approach to Revel yesterday.
The Kazakh, who returned from a two-year doping ban in 2009, made his move with just over 5km of the race remaining and held on until the finish.
Isle of Man sprinter Mark Cavendish came second, 13 seconds behind, after outsprinting his green jersey rival Alessandro Petacchi to the line.
Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
The Saxo Bank rider is 31 seconds ahead of defending champion Alberto Contador, with Samuel Sanchez in third after a day when there was no movement in the top 10 of the general classification.
However, there was movement in the race for the green points jersey.
Thor Hushovd started the day in green, two points ahead of Petacchi, but he could only finish eighth and his Italian rival’s third-place was enough to take the jersey back.
Looking at today’s stage there are two intermediate sprints before any mountains, so if Cav has any aspirations of green he should be having a go in a break because I am almost sure Hushovd will
Cavendish, who has won three stages on this year’s Tour, picked up 30 points for finishing second and is now third, 25 points adrift of Petacchi with two sprint stages remaining – next Friday into Bordeaux and the finish in Paris.
The Manx sprinter won on the Champs Elysees last year, but is refusing to think about ending the race in green, particularly with four days in the Pyrenees mountains coming up.
“Anything can happen in the Pyrenees,” Cavendish said. “I lost a lot of points in that first week and it’s just about minimising my losses and seeing where we go when we get to Paris.”
He also paid tribute to the work of his HTC Columbia team-mates and Vinokourov’s ride after the Kazakh rider attacked on the final climb of the day and held on to win the race.
“They did an incredible job and delivered me perfectly to the hill,” added Cavendish.
“It was just about killing myself over the hill – I had to go so, so deep then.
“But when Vinokourov went, he went so, so fast. It was an incredible ride. He deserved the win and to hold off the peloton, it was a very impressive ride.
“I was able to win the sprint and at least we salvaged something from the incredible work the guys did. We can be satisfied with second.”
Any thoughts HTC Columbia had of marshalling the peloton to the top of the final climb of the day, to help put Cavendish in a position to contest a sprint for first place in Revel, were initially blown out of the water by BMC’s Alessandro Ballan.
The Italian launched an attack early on the 1.9km ride up Cote de Saint-Ferreol. Several riders attempted to follow Ballan, who went over the summit first, but only Vinokourov could live with his pace and he raced past on the descent into Revel.
France’s Thomas Voeckler leapt out of the peloton in pursuit of Vinokourov, but he was swept up in the final couple of kilometres.
Vinokourov, who narrowly missed out on victory in Friday’s 12th stage after cracking on the final climb, was not to be denied though and he had tears in his eyes as he crossed the line.
“It was a beautiful victory, a beautiful reward,” commented Vinokourov.
The race enters the Pyrenees on Sunday for the first of four mountainous stages, which will play a major role in deciding the overall winner.
Race leader Schleck reflected: “It was a good day for my team. We didn’t have to work. Sunday is the battle. We’re going to have a nice stage.”
1. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) 63h 08m 40s
2. Alberto Contador (Esp/Astana) +31”
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp/Euskatel) +2’45”
4. Denis Menchov (Rus/Rabobank) +2’58”
5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Omega Pharma-Lotto) +3’31”
6. Levi Leipheimer (US/RadioShack) +4’06”
7. Robert Gesink (Ned/Rabobank) +4’27”
8. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa/Katusha) +4’58”
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Caisse d’Epargne) +5’02”
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze/Liquigas) +5’16”