Vinokourov wins stage 15 of Tour |

Vinokourov wins stage 15 of Tour

Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 15th stage of the 94th Tour de France cycling race between Foix and Loudenvielle le Louron, in the French Pyrenees mountains, Monday, July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

LOUDENVIELLE-LE LOURON, France ” Alexandre Vinokourov turned in a gutsy ride to win the 15th stage of the Tour de France Monday, and Michael Rasmussen held off several challenges to defend his overall lead.

Rasmussen retained a 2:23 lead over Alberto Contador despite repeated attacks from the Spaniard in the last of five climbs in the stage. Cadel Evans of Australia, in third overall, lost time to Rasmussen and drifted to 4:00 off the Dane’s pace.

Vinokourov, a former race favorite whose hopes of Tour victory vanished when he lost nearly 29 minutes to Rasmussen on Sunday, crossed the finish alone.

The Kazakh rider broke away near the end of the 122-mile run from Foix to Loudenvielle-Le Louron for his fifth career stage victory and second this Tour, after winning Saturday’s time trial.

“I wasn’t motivated yesterday … but the team told me I could still win stages. I gave my all,” said Vinokourov, who struggled to stay in contention for the overall lead after injuring his knees in the fifth stage.

Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg was second on Monday, closely followed by Haimar Zubeldia of Spain in third. They both trailed Vinokourov by 51 seconds. Rasmussen and Contador were several minutes back.

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