Cavendish wins 15th stage, Voeckler in yellow


Britain’s Mark Cavendish secured his 19th career win on the Tour de France Sunday when he won the 15th stage over 193 km ride from Limoux to Montpellier. France’s Thomas Voeckler, of the Europcar team, remained in the yellow jersey on a day that gave the overall contenders a chance to forget the mountains ahead of three days in the Alps beginning Wednesday.
Voeckler maintained his 1min 49sec lead on Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, with Australian Cadel Evans in third at 2:06.
Andy Schleck, the runner-up the past two years, is fourth at 2:15 while three-time and reigning champion Alberto Contador of Spain is seventh at 4:00. Cavendish meanwhile took his fourth stage win of this year’s race, in the process reinforcing his grip on the green jersey for the points competition. A technical approach to the long home straight in Montpellier proved no obstacle to his HTC-Highroad team, who paced the Isle of Man sprinter towards the finish and patiently chased down a late escape. Cavendish was left to emerge from the wheel of his Australian lead-out man Mark Renshaw and drive hard for the final 250 metres where he beat American Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo into second place.
Vinokourov announces
retirement: Kazakh cycling star Alexandre Vinokourov announced his retirement on French television on Sunday, a week after crashing out of the Tour de France with a thigh fracture. “I will continue to ride my bike, but as an amateur and just to keep fit,” said Vinokourov when asked if he would continue to compete once he has recovered from his injury.
“As far as competing goes, I think I will leave it there.” Vinokourov, who began his professional career with the Casino team in 1998, will go down as one of the most attacking and respected riders of his generation. He has twice won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic, has four Tour de France stage wins and finished on the podium of the world’s premier cycling event when he finished third with Team Telekom in 2003.
Popularly known as ‘Vino’, his last attack on the race came on the eighth stage when he went off alone in pursuit of a five-man breakaway that had him in the virtual lead of the race. Vinokourov was only caught inside the final two kilometres, finishing with the main bunch 15sec behind stage winner Alberto Rui Costa of Portugal.
As well as his exploits, Vinokourov — who also won a silver medal in the Olympic road race at Athens in 2000 — has also courted controversy in a 13-year career.
He was thrown off the Tour de France, after the 15th stage and during the second rest day, in 2007 when it was announced he had tested positive for blood doping. Vinokourov was sacked by his Astana team and served a two-year ban. When he returned in 2009, it was ironically as the team leader of Astana which, in the meantime, had undergone a management overhaul. Despite a mediocre 2009 season the Kazakh got back to winning ways in 2010, winning the Giro del Trentino in Italy and his second Liege-Bastogne-Liege crown.
A month later Vinokourov wore the leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia for five days and, after finishing sixth overall, turned his attention to the Tour de France where he won stage 13. Vinokourov came into the 2011 Tour de France pledging it would be his last but with the hope of pulling on the coveted yellow jersey for the first time in his career. That dream came to an abrupt end on the descent of the Col du Pas de Peyrol, the summit of which was at the 99.5km mark of the 208km ninth stage in the hilly Massif Central.
He crashed heavily at speed and ended up in the trees at the side of the road. Unable to walk, Vinokourov had to be helped up to the roadside to await an ambulance. Scans at a nearby hospital in Aurillac diagnosed a “fracture at the top of the femur on his right leg”. He underwent surgery at Parisian hospital la Pitie-Salpetriere the following morning. Asked how his recovery was going, he added: “It’s going okay. I’m starting to walk on crutches, though it’s not easy.” Expected to remain in the sport, Vinokourov has in the past indicated he would likely become manager or sporting director of Astana.