Blazin' Saddles

Vino, Vidi, Vici – finally

Blazin' Saddles

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When Saddles found out that Alexandre Vinokourov won stage 13 of the Tour he thought he was dreaming. It was as if someone - a rather magnanimous Joachim Rodriguez, perhaps - had turned back the clocks 24 hours and let the Astana road captain win on the Mende airstrip after all.

You see, Saddles has been out of action celebrating the marriage of his sister Traceycle down in the shires. It's the first time he's missed a stage of the Tour since he graduated from stabilisers all those years back.

The festivities over and the hangover already beginning to set in, Saddles sloped off to bed and logged on to find out what had happened - and there it was, the face of Vino in crazed celebration. Had Saddles had one glass of bubbly too many? Should he have stuck to the Gerolsteiner fizzy water? Did the Mende disappointment actually happen?

It soon sunk it. Vino had done it - not at Mende, but at Revel. The full-blooded Kazakh had got his stage victory - his first legit Tour win since storming the Champs Elysees back in 2005.

Where he gets the strength from is a mystery. You'd think the 36-year-old veteran would have blown a gasket by now - especially after his ultimately ill-fated break back on Friday, which didn't even result in a stage victory for team-mate Alberto Contador in Mende.

Well, Astana and the never-say-die Vino have now been rewarded for their continued attacking riding. The people of Kazakhstan rightly rejoice the return of the prodigal son.

It could have been so different. The only update Saddles got through the stage was via a text from a friend in Australia. "Chav! Allez mon fils!" read the text from S-Boss (who is not - to clarify matters - actually the father of Sylvain Chavanel). Apparently the indefatigable QuickStepper, along with Juan Antonio Flecha and Pierrick Fedrigo, was on the offensive.

Great, Saddles thought while on usher duties arranging the car parking of wedding guests, with Fedrigo in the mix there's a 33 per cent chance the blog will be about the Frenchman's extraordinarily large hooter. And with Flecha, another 33 per cent chance the blog might hinge on some lame joke about arrows with which the hapless Team Sky have finally hit the target.

What of Le Chav? Well, they'd be two previous blogs to regurgitate - although admittedly less scope for firing quivering quips about prodigious proboscises.

All of this was, of course, immaterial once the trio were reeled in and Vino galloped up the Saint-Ferreol to counter-attack a cluster of riders, including Damiano Cunego, who seems to be in virtually every half-hearted breakaway this year without ever bringing home the bacon.

Vino's emotion on crossing the line - and his tender embrace with Contador at the finish - showed just how much it meant for the one-time blood transfusing pioneer.

A clean victory must feel nice on the conscience. Just don't expect Vino to be joining Daniel Navarro setting the pace up to Ax-3 Domaines on Sunday, that's all. Or if you do, be worried. Very worried.

Quote of the day #1: "This win isn't only for me. It's for my family and for my country because I think that the people in Kazakhstan were disappointed yesterday because both myself and Alberto missed out on the stage win." The snow leopard gets his nation behind him.

Quote of the day #2: "I've worked hard for two years. I wanted to show the people I could still win." Vino speaks of his relief to get the stage win he so sought. Let's just hope he continues to excite with his punchy style and relentless attacking zeal.

Quote of the day #3: "We're going to see a fierce battle in the Pyrenees. And for me, there's always the Champs Elysees." The Kazakh eyes a repeat of his 2005 win in Paris.

Word of the day: Hushedovd - adj. the act of having your thunder stolen and losing some of your colour. Eg. Vince told Pete not to wear his Barcelona shirt in Madrid - but his friend didn't listen and he was soon hushedovd all the way to the station.

Stage 14 prediction: Sunday's platter includes the highest climb on the Tour so far - the Port de Pailheres - and the steepest mountain of the race leading up to the Ax-3 Domaines ski resort. Lance Armstrong thinks there will be "some surprises" in these next four Pyrenean stages - but one thing which won't be so surprising is the American's withdrawal from the race. With the race passing through Esperaza on Sunday, a place famous for its dinosaur museum, could Armstrong decide to call it a day amongst the old fossils? Christophe Moreau might be keen to join in.

As for the victory - if a Spaniard is not first to cross the line then Saddles will spend a small part of the next blog eating humble pie. Who knows, you might even get an apology for the Renshaw-Dean fiasco out of him - although that's pushing it (into the barriers) a little.

Plat du jour: Get off to a flyer with a minty shot of Get 27 before settling into a bowl of mounjetado - a local cassoulet from the Ariege region - or a plate of azinat (potatoes cooked with ham and liver sausage).

Peleton prattle: Which stinky rider did not take a shower on Saturday night and is looking forward to sampling the famous baths at Ax-3 Domaines?

Uses for Mark Cavendish #2: Mark Cavendish's lead-out man.

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