Author: Lee Rodgers
Published: 02/23/12 17:58
Alexandre Vinokourov is starting the last season of his brilliant and controversial career with Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, where everything started for him fifteen years ago. Riding in 1997 for the Kazakh national team, he got noticed by the Casino team – now Ag2r-La Mondiale – and joined their feeder squad in France.
CYCLINGTIME.com: How come have you decided to return to Malaysia fifteen years after your first showing?
ALEXANDRE VINOKOUROV: This is a beautiful race that I’ve always wanted to do again but it could never fit in my program until this year. I don’t want to do the biggest and hardest races in Europe at the beginning of this year. Malaysia is a great country. It has close ties with Kazakhstan. My father is here with a few friends to watch the race and the country. The ambassador Beibut B. Atamkulov joined us for the team’s presentation at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kuala Lumpur. Astana is a World Tour team but also an Asian team, so it’s logical that we participate to one of Asia’s biggest stage races. We’re Asians! It’s hot here but I don’t see it as a problem. I’ve come here a few days ago, stayed in Port-Dickson, I had a great time.
CT: What is your state of form and what can you target at Le Tour de Langkawi?
AV: This is my first stage race since my accident at the Tour de France. The only race I did in the meantime was the Chrono des Nations at the very end of the European season. I’ve trained well but I don’t know yet how competitive I can be right now. I’m here in Malaysia to guide the team. We have riders like Alexandr Dyachenko and Dimitri Gruzdev for GC who can do well in the opening time trial and the uphill finish to Genting Highlands. I’ll support them as much as I can.
CT: Is that because you’re concerned about the development of your successors as cycling stars from Kazakhstan?
AV: Absolutely. This year we have created a second Astana team, Astana 2, at continental level. They’ve already won a stage at Tour of the Republican Dominic this week. That’s where my future is: to help my country to still have big names in cycling after my retirement.
CT: So your future is in cycling more than in politics?
AV: Our party has won the last general elections in January and I’m now a substitute Member of Parliament. It’s a pleasure to be part of it but my priority for now is to look after the Astana team.
CT: Why do you keep racing although your retirement had been announced last year?
AV: Firstly because Astana needed my points to qualify for the World Tour. We want to keep the team at the highest level of cycling. On the bike, I can still play a role at the service of the younger riders. With the household name I have in cycling, I could keep racing until 45, like Jan Kirsipuu is doing [he’s lining up at Le Tour de Langkawi at 43] but that’s not my goal. I want to move on to new duties.
CT: Do you still have personal goals for this year?
AV: Nothing is determined yet. At first, I want to spin the legs in the bunch of Le Tour de Langkawi. After that race, I’ll see if my condition is good enough for the big races. All depends on my condition. If it’s good, I’ll go for the Giro. Same goes for the Tour de France. If I’m on good form, it would be the ideal race to end up my career. I could also ride the Olympics because my points have qualified two spots for Kazakhstan. But I don’t want to take the spot of another Kazakh rider who could do better than me. We’re 8 to 10 Kazakhs in contention for those two spots. Unfortunately, it’s only two. Had it been four or five, it would have been more appropriate for me to be part of the team. We have to look at the possibilities of medals as well. The course in London isn’t like in Sydney in 2000 where I got the silver medal. It looks like being for sprinters this time around.
Author: Lee RodgersPublished: 02/23/12 17:58