Olympic champion Vinokourov says he’ll ride just one more race before retirement
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic champion Vinokourov says he’ll ride just one more race before retirement

by VeloNation Press at 3:28 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
Astana leader determined to go out on top

Alexandre VinokourovToday’s Olympic road race winner Alexandre Vinokourov proved that he’s still got the legs and mind to win big races but rather than prolong his retirement, he’s said that he’s determined to leave the sport at this point in time: with a big victory to his name.

The Kazakh rider outsprinted Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran after the two of them pushed clear of a large breakaway group with eight kilometres to go. The win is his biggest in years, perhaps even the largest of his whole career, and he said that he will compete just one more time before hanging up his wheels.

“It's decided. This time, I am stopping my career,” he said afterwards, according to l’Equipe. “I think this is a nice way to finish. The great champions like Jalabert and Virenque stopped with a good exit. I'll still do the time trial [on Wednesday – ed.] but only to turn the legs after this magnificent medal.”

Once considered a Tour de France contender and having a third place finish to his name from 2003, he has had two major interruptions to his career in the past five years. He won two stages in the 2007 Tour but then tested positive for a blood transfusion, being stripped of those victories and also serving a two year ban.

He returned in 2009, won races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a stage of the Tour de France in 2010, but then crashed out of last year’s Tour with a broken femur.

He was willing to talk about the second of those incidents today, but not the first.

“I already turned the corner in 2007. I proved to everyone that Vino is still here,” he said when asked about his positive test. “I proved I could do the maximum for me, for cycling. This is my life. That’s the response: I turned the page. This is not the time to talk about that.”

As regards his femur fracture and his long battle to get back into shape, he said that the Olympic medal justified his decision to return after having announced his retirement last July.

“This proves that I didn’t come back for nothing,” he asserted. “After the fall, there was a lot of suffering. My family, my children, my parents were always there [for me]. I still have a small bolt in the femur but the doctors have done a good job. I said I would return, I would do the Tour again. Some said, "why? You should stop.'' In the Tour, I did not win a stage, but I got the medal this week. My dream came true.”

Vinokourov is expected to go into a career in politics, and his chances of being successful in that role can only be enhanced by the prestige of an Olympic title. Today’s win will lead to acres of positive press in Kazakstan’s media, and boost his image amongst the public.

He said that the key point of the victory was being involved in a move which was clear over the top of the final ascent of Box Hill.

“On the last lap, when I saw that the British riders were moving with a tempo that wasn’t so fast, many people began to attack. I pushed forward with Luis Leon (Sanchez) and with Valverde behind,” he explained. “A group of about forty riders was formed at the front. The Spanish and Swiss rode strongly. I was all alone.

“I was looking for the moment to attack but I had a difficult moment. I was just behind Cancellara when he fell, I passed right beside the crash.”

That point was indeed crucial as if he had hit the deck, or even been held up for any time, he would have lost the chance to take the gold medal. Cancellara had been a favourite until that moment, but instead miscalculated and ended with nothing as a result.

He’ll have more chances in the future, but for Vinokourov it was the final roll of the dice. That produced the winning numbers, and he has a gold Olympic medal tonight as a result.


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