Alexandre Vinokourov still thinks of Andrei Kivilev as he approaches final Paris-Nice
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alexandre Vinokourov still thinks of Andrei Kivilev as he approaches final Paris-Nice

by Ben Atkins at 3:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 
Two-time winner misses his friend who tragically died in the 2003 race

alexandre vinokourovAlexandre Vinokourov (Astana) is set to start the final Paris-Nice of his career this coming Sunday. As a two-time winner of the race, as well as a five-time stage winner, the Kazakh has enjoyed a great deal of success in the Race to the Sun. Tempering that success though is the memory that he lost his best friend at the race, as Andrei Kivilev became one of the few in-race fatalities in the sport’s history.

“It has marked my career,” said Vinokourov, “I've won it twice but I also had terrible feelings there, as the accidental death of my friend Andrei Kivilev in 2003. It was a turning point in my career, my life. It strengthened me a lot too, I took it as a test of life to overcome to go even higher.”

Kivilev was seriously injured as he crashed on a descent, 40km from the finish in Saint-Etienne, during the second stage of the 2003 race. He immediately lapsed into a coma and died soon afterwards in hospital in Saint-Etienne. As he was not wearing his helmet, Kivilev’s death was the catalyst that finally brought in the compulsory helmet rule.

Vinokourov won the race a few days later, after taking the stage up to Mont Faron; he appeared on the podium with a photo of Kivilev and for the rest of the season proclaimed that he was riding with the strength of his friend added to his own.

“He is always there,” he said, “he’s my brother, I talk to him sometimes. I never spend a day without thinking of him. I miss him very much.”

As one of the most presigious events on the calendar, Paris-Nice boasts a great history; one that Vinokourov is sensitive to, even though it is very early in the year to have built up too much form.

“It's a wonderful event,” he said, “you must win it for being considered as a great champion. It takes place maybe a bit early for me this year because my objectives of the season will be further later. But Paris-Nice can’t leave any rider indifferent. We always want to do something good for this race. It marks the great beginning of the season.”

This will be the Kazakh’s final appearance at the race before he retires at the end of the season; this is not something that he wishes to dwell on however.

“I don’t think of that because we can’t live with nostalgia,” he said. “I had some great moments on Paris-Nice, I want to transmit it to the youngest of my team as a rider this year, waiting to see how I can pass on the most of my experience to Astana team during next years; it’s the team of my heart, that I created in 2006.”

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