The Colombian, who cracked on the famous Mont Ventoux climb two days ago, led an early break away then bravely held on for the win in the Alpine ski resort.
‘‘Even in the last few kilometres I was worried that I might go bang and throw it away, but it didn’t happen,’’ said the Kelme rider. Botero’s effort, however, was not enough to threaten the yellow jersey of Lance Armstrong, who again flexed his muscles when his main rivals threatened.
The three-time defending champion came in six minutes 41 seconds behind Botero, but the Texan was quick to show Joseba Beloki, second overall, that he was unlikely to snatch back the Tour lead before Sunday’s procession down the Champs-Elysees.
Beloki tried to break free from the yellow jersey peloton in the final kilometre, but Armstrong powered down the short-lived 30-metre advantage to eventually finish on the Spaniard’s shoulder. Armstrong remains 4:21 ahead of Beloki in the overall standings.
The day though belonged to Botero, who was rewarded with his second win of the Tour in yesterday’s 226.5km stage, the longest in the race.
He had been one of seven riders to break away from the main peloton shortly before the 50km mark from the start in Vaison La Romaine. With seven climbs to come, including the final one to Les Deux Alpes at 1,650m, Botero was eager to shake the demons that haunted him on the mythical climb to Mont Ventoux, where British cyclist Tom Simpson died in 1967.
The 29-year-old lost 14 minutes to stage winner Richard Virenque as he dropped from fifth to 18th in the overall standings. But there was no such mishap this time, with Botero having plenty of support in the mountains.
With about 12km to go, the South American made his break to get away from the group, which had also included Virenque.
Frenchman Christophe Moreau abandoned the Tour after suffering one fall too many.
The Credit Agricole team leader, fourth in the 2000 Tour, had a number of spills during the first week but decided enough was enough after going to ground at the 80km mark of yesterday’s stage. Moreau, 27, who also abandoned the Tour last year, was 41st in the standings at the start of the day.