History repeated itself on Friday?s stage of the Dauphine Libere.

On almost exactly the same stage to Digne-les-Bains seven years ago Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton, then US Postal team-mates, finished together and ahead of the field. The two had broken away on the short but viciously steep Cote Du Corobin shortly beforehand and their victory underlined the superiority of the US Postal team.

It also provided a strong hint of who was going to be on form for the Tour de France.

Fast forward seven years and the same story unfolded – only this time round the man handing out the gift stage wins to loyal domestiques was Alexandre Vinokourov and the lucky beneficiary his team-mate in Astana, Antonio Colom.

Neither rider is going to win the Dauphine – this is why they were able to form part of a 22-man-break on the hilly transition stage.

But like Armstrong and Hamilton, the two had broken away on the Corobin climb en route to Digne-les-Bains with virtually no real challengers from the remainder of the break. Yet another sign following Wednesday?s time trial win that, just like Armstrong in 2000, Vinokourov is looking more than good for the Tour de France.

Not only that, Vinokourov?s team-mate Andrey Kashechkin is currently in control of the Dauphine Libere general classification, and – Christophe Moreau and a nasty trek through the Alps on Saturday permitting – is in pole position for the overall win.

But on Friday at least, it was Colom?s turn to get his 15 minutes of fame. After much discusión as he and Vino? rode into Dignes-les-Bains, the Spaniard inched ahead of his team leader for the biggest win of the 29-year-old?s career.

?I didn?t expect to win today.? Colom said afterwards. ?In fact, I though t Alexandre deserved to because he?s my idol and also because if he?d wanted to he could have ridden me off his back wheel on the Corobin.?

He dedicated his win to his sister Anna-Maria, who died two years ago, and also to the late Isaac Galvez, killed in a tragic track accident during the Ghent Six last December.

As for Kashechkin , he admitted that getting Vinokourov and Colom in the day-long break (which also, encouragingly for British fans, contained Liquigas Magnus Backstedt, seemingly on the up after his virus problems last month) was a move which let him take things relatively easily.

?It was good after all the work Astana did the day before.? Kashechkin pointed out. ?And with the big Alpine stage tomorrow, this is going to get tough again very soon.?

One Tour favourite who will not be tackling the Croix-de-Fer, Mollard and Telegraphe climbs tomorrow will be Alejandro Valverde . The Caisse D?Epargne rider climbed off after 40 kilometres of racing: a stomach virus that all but wiped him out on Wednesday?s assault on the Ventoux had finally got the better of him.


DAUPHINE LIBERE: STAGE FIVE, NYONS ? DIGNES-LES-BAINS
1 Antonio Colom (Spa) Astana 195 km in 4-39-28
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at st
3 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis at 15sec
4 Matej Mugerlij (Slo) Liquigas
5 Stef Clement (Hol) Bouygues all st
6 Preben Van Haecke (Bel) Predictor-Lotto at 18sec
7 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Credit Agricole
8 Egoi Martínez (Spa) Discovery all st
9 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Phillippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux all st
British
52 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 3-27
127 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis at 18-09


GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 21-00-16
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R at 14 sec
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 25sec
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 26sec
5 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC at st
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel at 53sec
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 1-47
8 Stef Clement (Hol) Bouygues at 1-50
9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at st
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-15
British
57 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 15-19
90 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis at 32-00.