Alexandre Vinokourov confirms schedule, names Tirreno Adriatico and Liège as big goals
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Vinokourov confirms schedule, names Tirreno Adriatico and Liège

by Conal Andrews at 11:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Liège-Bastogne-Liège
 

Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov has laid out his season schedule and goals, listing Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège Bastogne Liège as personal goals, pledging to support Alberto Contador 100% in the Tour and saying that he would love to win at least one mountain stage in the French race.

“I think the best chance I have to win will be in Tirreno-Adriatico,” he told Nur.kz, of his early-season plans. “I would also like to race well in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I won’t make predictions, but I will try to achieve a high placing.”

As regards the Tour, he said that taking part would in itself be hugely rewarding, but that he would plan to do more than just participate. “For me it will be a victory if I go back to the start of La Grande Boucle [the Tour de France],” he stated. “I very much want to feel again the unforgettable atmosphere of the Tour, of which I’ve lost over two years. Like when you are climbing mountains and you cannot see anything because of all the fans around you…

“Of course, I will 100% try to help Alberto Contador defend his title. And if I can win at least one mountain stages, I would be very happy. This is my dream.”

Vinokourov came back to cycling last season after serving a two year ban for blood doping in the 2007 edition of the race. The controversial rider showed strong end of season form, attacking hard in the world championships and the Tour of Lombardy, and winning the Chrono des Nations time trial.

He has been working hard since then and has finalised the first half of his racing programme with the Astana team. “I plan to go to the start of the Tour of the Mediterranean on February 10th,” he said. “This is a good five-day race in southern France, where you can see for yourself how you have come into the new season. Then [next] on my schedule is to do training in the mountains of Tenerife, and then in mid-March I will make a statement in the Italian Tirreno-Adriatico.

“In late April I plan to do another preparation race, the Giro del Trentino, then Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia.”

Alberto Contador will not take part in the Giro, and so Vinokourov will lead the team. He said that he is likely to be supported by ‘at least’ three Kazakh riders there, namely Assan Bazayev, Roman Kireev, and Valentin Iglinski.

Former Giro race leader Enrico Gasparotto, Gorazd Štangelj and Allan Davis are also mentioned as possibles for the squad.

Stages wins, and not the general classification, are the goal in that event. “I am not going there just to start the race. I will probably try to show my hand,” he promised, before clarifying what his target would be. “Primarily, my participation in the Giro is preparation for the start of the Tour de France. I don’t think I will be able to compete for a podium place as this year the Italian Grand Tour has a very difficult route. So I don’t think about prizes.”

Atmosphere on Astana:

The Astana team has been through considerably turmoil in the past twelve months, with multiple missed payments of wages being followed by a rift between Johan Bruyneel’s segment of the team and the Kazakh backers. Bruyneel left and took many riders with him, while Contador – who clashed with Lance Armstrong during last year’s Tour – remained behind.

The Spaniard had initially stated that he too wanted to race elsewhere, but the lack of a buy-out clause in his contract prevented any change. Media reports suggested that there was tension between himself and Vinokourov; this was denied by Contador and, now, by his team-mate.

“I have already said and I repeat again – this is all speculation of journalists who do not write about [reality],” he said. “Alberto has denied all these rumours in the European press. I have a good relationship with Alberto, so we can have a great Tour team.”

Another significant name on the team is that of Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 Tour winner. He had a very bad crash during the 2008 edition of the race and hasn’t reached a good level of condition since then; however, he has been training hard and has been reported as very determined.

Vinokourov believes that he will reach a high level in 2010.”I think he will. Of course, he has had many problems, these can occur with each racer. But Oscar is very motivated for the season, is superbly qualified to do the Tour de France, and to help Contador.”

While expressing discontent about the riders’ showing in the Tour Down Under, the 36 year old said that he expected the squad to gel and to prove itself this year.

“The results our team have shown are not the highest, so it is difficult to be happy. Our rookie Allan Davis, who won the Australian race last year, failed to repeat the success. But I think you should not make hasty conclusions about the strength of the new composition of Astana, especially in the first race of the year.

“Of course, last year’s model of Astana had a lot of bright names. Today there are fewer, but I think it’s not the point. What’s much more important is that the new structure is set to win,” he said, adding that he hoped that young Kazakh riders will get to ride more big races this year and to develop.

“I think it is in our power to be the best…we will strive to prove that Astana is still the top team in the world.”

 

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