Vinokourov Wins Stage 7 of Dauphine Libere; Moreau Wins Overall
Alexander Vinokourov has won Astana's fourth stage of the 2007 Dauphine Libere. Vinokourov became the stage leader when Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) crashed in the last four km, and the Kazakh held on to win Stage 7, a rolling, 129-km run from Valloire to Annecy, in 2:55:33. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d' Epargne) outsprinted Cadel Evans (Predictor) for second at 0:37. Christophe Moreau (Ag2r), who took the overall lead during Stage 6, is the overall winner.
The stage got off to a blazing start, with the peloton traveling 52.9 km during the first hour. At 11 km, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) sallied off of the front, and nine km later, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Enrico Franzoi (Lampre), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step), Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) joined the Norwegian. The octet forged an eight-minute lead before Euskaltel and Milram began to chase. The pursuit cut the escapees' lead from 3:00 to 2:00 by 50 km.
The peloton eased up, and the break ran up its lead to nearly 3:00 at the base of the Col de Tamie (about 80 km). During the ascent, the break split in two, with Gilbert leading the fugitives over the summit. The escape regrouped at 98 km.
Euskaltel resumed the chase. During the ascent of the Category 1 Col de la Forclaz, rain began to fall. Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) bridged up to the break, which was 0:25 ahead of the bunch. Saunier Duval took over at the front.
Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) attacked and led the field at the summit of the Forclaz. The peloton consisted of Moreau; Leipheimer, Alberto Contador, and Sergio Paulinho (all from Discovery Channel); Denis Menchov (Rabobank); Evans; Vinokourov, Andrei Kashechkin, and Jose Redondo (all from Astana); David Zabriskie (CSC); Manuel Beltran (Liquigas), and Tadej Valjavec (Lampre). Piepoli held a small lead over this group on the descent.
With nine km remaining, Evans attacked, but Zabriskie and Moreau reeled in the Australian. Piepoli was caught, and Evans tried again. He was caught again, and Menchov had a go before Leipheimer succeeded in escaping. Vinokourov set out after the American, but the slippery road did the Kazakh rider's work for him. With four km left, Leipheimer crashed.
With Kashechkin still in the break, Vinokourov only had to stay upright to win. That the Astana captain did, and he won his second stage of the race and his team's fourth.
In the overall, Moreau beat Evans by 0:14 and Kashechkin by 1:27. Many of the riders in the Dauphine Libere will meet again in the Tour de France. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!