BRIANCON, France -- A favorite to win the Tour de France, Alexandre Vinokourov's title hopes are fading fast.
The injured cyclist fell more than eight minutes behind leader Michael Rasmussen in yesterday's ninth stage, the last of three stages in the Alps.
Juan Mauricio Soler became the latest Colombian to show climbing prowess at the Tour, attacking in the last of three major ascents and holding off a pack of chasers to win the stage.
Soler, a 24-year-old Colombian competing in his first Tour for the newcomer
"I'm really happy. Winning a stage is a dream," Soler said.
Rasmussen, a Dane who took home the polka-dot jersey as the Tour's best climber the last two years, leads a thinning pack of hopefuls after the Alps proved too much for some.
His ambitions are growing to hold on to the leader's yellow jersey, which he took in the second Alpine stage Sunday. His main rivals did little during yesterday's climbs.
Alejandro Valverde of Spain, who placed second after Soler, gained 16 seconds against Rasmussen and is second overall -- 2 minutes 35 seconds back.
Vinokourov, who was third in the 2003 Tour and won last year's Tour of Spain, lost another 2:42 to Rasmussen and now trails by 8:05 overall in 21st place.
Other title aspirants also lost ground. Russia's Denis Menchov lost 2:49 to Rasmussen and was 7:10 back, and 2006 runner-up Oscar Pereiro was 2:42 behind, trailing by 6:36 overall.
Among the expected contenders within striking distance, Cadel Evans of Australia was fourth, 2:41 back; Frenchman Christophe Moreau is sixth, 3:18 behind; Carlos Sastre of Spain trailed by 3:39 in seventh, and American Levi Leipheimer was ninth, 3:53 back.