Vinokourov says farewell to pro cycling at Clasica San Sebastian
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vinokourov says farewell to pro cycling at Clasica San Sebastian

by VeloNation Press at 4:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Clásica de San Sebastián
 
Olympic champion believes it’s time to go

Alexandre VinokourovRacing on a striking gold-coloured bike and sporting the Olympic rings on his jersey, Alexandre Vinokourov has said that today’s Clasica San Sebastian marks his final event as a pro rider, and that the time has come to retire.

Still in strong enough shape win the Olympic road race two and a half weeks ago and to be in contention until the finale of today’s race, he recognises that the moment has come.

“I am very happy because I rode my last race in San Sebastian and Spain. I tried to do it well and be competitive.” he said in a press conference after today’s race, according to Biciciclismo. “I wanted to [perform], and my team as well. However, my legs were not like those of the Olympic Games.”

Vinokourov was with the main contenders on the second ascent of the Jaizkibel, but then slipped back. When it became clear he wouldn’t be in the fight for the win, he changed his priorities. “I wanted to enjoy the final kilometres as much as possible,” he said of the last half hour in a Classic race. “And also this public farewell, to meet everyone and sign autographs and have photographs taken.”

Vinokourov’s aim in coming back after his big crash in last year’s Tour was to leave the sport on his own terms. He had originally said that 2011 would be his final season but in leaving the Tour in an ambulance rather than a stage winner, the pangs of a better farewell gradually outweighed his initial, disappointment-fuelled insistence that he was done.

Although his public perception had been affected by his positive test in 2007, he knew that amongst his fans – and particularly the people back home in Kazakhstan – that one more big win would boost his standing in the sport, in the Astana team and in the political career path that many are predicting he will follow,

Vinokourov had a serious injury, though, and said today that he found it very tough to regain his form after that femur fracture. “In January I still had problems on one leg and did not want to leave cycling like that.” He kept working and while he went close to a stage win at the Tour, he left the race with a best placing of fourth on stage sixteen.

He admits he though that was his last chance. However good sensations, the right tactics, a pinch of luck and a fluffed sprint by Rigoberto Uran all combined to earn him Olympic Gold, twelve years after his runner-up slot in Sydney.

“I did not expect my victory in London,” he admitted today. “It was the maximum that could wish for and it was very important for my country.

“I want to thank my family and friends for their support after the fall. All this sacrifice wasn't for nothing, I wanted to stop with a victory in the Tour. That could not be, and finally that happened at the Games. I am also very proud of my country. I could go back to compete after the silver medal in Sydney, and the seven gold medals and the twelfth position in the medals table is great for Kazakhstan.”

Vinokourov could of course finish out the season, but he has the opportunity to leave in the afterglow of the Games victory, his career at one of its high points. He’d likely be concerned about the chance he might not perform on the tough worlds route, and rules out waiting any longer. He also said its time to give his successors a chance.

“I am aware that I am going to leave cycling. It hasn't sunk in yet…it is difficult for me,” he admitted. “But being 39 years old in September, I knew that I had to stop. At least I've been able to go leave by the front door [ie in a good way] and am satisfied with it.”

So what happens next? “I don’t really know,” he answered. “After tomorrow I return to my country and the President greets all the medallists. Also, I will be meeting with the Federation to speak about my future and talk about ideas.”

He doesn't mention politics, even though he appeared set before to take up a role in that area. Whether or not he does, Vinokourov seems set to remain in cycling. “I'll have a special place in the team, so we will see,” he concludes.

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