Vinokourov to lead strong Astana team at the Tour de Langkawi
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vinokourov to lead strong Astana team at the Tour de Langkawi

by Shane Stokes at 5:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi
Early start in final year of pro career

Alexandre VinokourovReturning to a race he first competed in back in 1997, Alexandre Vinokourov will complete a circle by lining out in the Tour de Langkawi on February 24th.

The former Vuelta a España winner will travel to Malaysia with five other riders from Kazakhstan, namely Assan Bazayev, Alexandre Dyachenko, Dimitriy Gruzdev, Valentin Iglinskiy and Andrey Zeits, and begin the 2.HC ranked race in Kuala Lumpur.

Fifteen years previously, he competed in the event at the start of what was his final year in the amateur ranks. While he was sick and didn’t ride to his full ability then, his performances there and in subsequent races earned him a pro contract with the Casino team.

“I’ve always wanted to do this race again but it was never on my team’s calendar or appropriate for my race schedule,” the 38 year old said. “Le Tour de Langkawi has a special place in my heart and I always knew that it is a very well organised race.”

The news follows the recent confirmation by Tom Danielson that he will lead the Garmin-Cervélo team in the event, and means that two top names will headline the ten day race.

Unsurprisingly, race COO Emir Abjul Jalal is pleased with the news. “It’s a great honour for us to welcome Vinokourov back to Malaysia,” he said. “We wish him to come as a rider, team captain and Member of Parliament.” The latter point is a reference to the rider’s nomination for January’s parliamentary elections in Kazakstan, in which he has been listed as a candidate.

The riders will travel to Malaysia in advance of the race, with a week’s training planned on the holiday island of Langkawi. They will train in the heat there, honing their form, but some or all of the team may also compete prior to that in the Asian cycling championships in Kuala Lumpur. This begins on February 15th with a time trial, then continues two days later with the road race.

Vinokourov will be the clear leader of the team but those who will line out alongside him could also perform strongly. Bazayev is a solid sprinter, while Dyachenko was ninth in the world time trial championships in September, beating riders such as Jakob Fuglsang, Svein Tuft, Janez Brajkovic and Taylor Phinney. He and Vinokourov will be gunning to make a mark in the 20.3 kilometre Putrajaya time trial, which will start things off on February 24th.

Of the others, Iglinskiy has won the past two editions of the Tour of Hainan and also took the opening stage of the 2011 Presidential Tour of Turkey. Zeits was second overall in that race, while Gruzdev previously led the Asian classification in the 2009 Tour de Langkawi.

Emir Abdul Jalal is anticipating a big performance. “It’s a really nice team that Astana is sending to Malaysia. Their presence as the only ProTeam from Asia gives credit to Le Tour de Langkawi, which has been the highest ranked bike race in Asia for many years.”

The 2012 Tour de Langkawi will feature 22 squads, with at least two of them being UCI ProTeams.

It will feature stage finishes in Putrajaya, Melaka, Parit Sulong, Muar, Pandan Indah, Genting Highlands, Kuantan, Chukai and two in Kuala Terengganu.

Vinokourov has indicated that he will retire in 2012, possibly after the London Olympics. Starting early will enable him to build his form after losing most of the second half of last season due to a bad crash in the Tour de France. He returned to competition in the Chrono des Nations in October.

Astana for the 2012 Le Tour De Langkawi:

Alexandre Vinokourov
Assan Bazayev
Alexandre Dyachenko
Dimitriy Gruzdev
Valentin Iglinskiy
Andrey Zeits (all from Kazakhstan)


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