Vinokourov claims Romandie stage

Fri, 29 Apr 16:30:00 2011

Alexandre Vinokourov showed he retains the freshness of a youngster to wrong-foot the main bunch and win the 165.7km third stage of the Tour of Romandie.

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While a mass sprint looked unavoidable after a fast ride around the Neuchatel Lake, German Tony Martin surged with three kilometres to go and Vinokourov immediately took his wheel.

In the final stretch, the 37-year-old Kazakh was too experienced for the Paris-Nice winner and for Frenchman Mickael Cherel, who finished second ahead of Martin in third.

The stage win allowed Vinokourov, winner of the Tour of Spain in 2006, to move up to second overall, 32 seconds behind Russian Pavel Brutt.

"I wanted to keep some strength for tomorrow's time trial but when I saw Martin attack, I told myself he would go all the way," he said. "I went behind him and closed the gap."

A 20.1km time trial between Aubonne and Signal-de-Bougy on Saturday looks set to decide the race, with some other top names still in with a chance.

Australia's 2009 world champion Cadel Evans, a time trial specialist, is fourth in the general classification, 42 seconds adrift.

Martin, the favourite of many after his show of strength in Paris-Nice in March, lies 1:18 off the pace.

"The legs respond well and it will be a major bonus to start the time trial behind Evans, aware of his times," said Vinokourov. "But to me, Evans is the main favourite. He looks in great shape.

"As for Martin, he beat me by more than 1:20 in Paris-Nice, but I hope he has tired a bit since then."

Vinokourov, who finished third in the 2003 Tour de France before being kicked out of the race in 2007 after failing a dope test for blood transfusion, confirmed he would be his Astana team leader in the July race.

"I worked as a team captain for Alberto Contador on the last Tour but I want to give it another try as a leader," he said.

"I'm not expecting to win it. But I dream of holding the yellow jersey, as I've never had the chance to, and to hold it for a few days. Or go for the best climber's polka dot."

Reuters

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