Tour Guide Flashback – Astana Team Pages (2011)

RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. During the production period, we will be looking back at certain features from over the years.

In this flashback we take a look at the commentary on the Astana team from the 2011 Tour preview.

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Flashback: 2011 – Astana Team Page

One last appearance for Vino: expect quite a show!

Although Bernard Hinault reminds us of the strength of this team’s Czech mate, Roman Kreuziger – the star recruit for this year after Alberto Contador’s departure – he is not expected to start the Tour de France in 2011. He started the Giro d’Italia a day after turning 25 and is expected to contest the Vuelta a España in September. It’s a shame that the Tour de France isn’t on the agenda because he’s got serious potential, especially in an edition that’s ideal for the climbers… but the logic for this must be based on Alexandre Vinokourov’s plans.

“Is the new ‘Vino’,” said the Kazakh about himself after he won the 13th stage of last year’s race. “It’s a great victory for me but I did it more for the moral of the team. I think everyone understands now that I must earn my popularity in France. For me it’s already a win for me to be at the Tour…”

He who was once virtually anonymous built his reputation in France. He won Paris-Nice in 2002, the year his good friend Andrei Kivilev died after an accident in that race. From that moment on, he became a true force in cycling. He taunted his rivals with constant attacks. On climbs, on the flat, it didn’t matter – if he was racing, he was aggressive. But in the old Vino it was not all veritas. His strength came from the inspiration of a fallen comrade and years later, we would find out in dramatic circumstances, the manipulation of his blood.

In 2007 he brought shame to the race and was disqualified for an autogulous transfusion… after having ‘won’ two stages. Before that, however, he had made a name for himself and even managed a place on the podium of the Tour de France.

In the year of the centenary celebrations, 2003, he teased Lance Armstrong from the Alps to the Pyrenees. The American trotted across a field after a serious GC rival, Joseba Beloki, crashed out with a broken hip – and up ahead that day was the Kazakh… racing down a road painted red, white and blue as part of Bastille Day festivities. His victory in Gap heralded the arrival of Vino – the challenger for the yellow jersey. He got to within 18 seconds of Lance and finished up third overall.

Why is this relevant? Because it reminds us that Vinokourov lives for cycling. While serving his two-year suspension he was often out training, riding his bike because it’s what he loves. He was pivotal in finding funding from a consortium of Kazakh companies when his Liberty Seguros team needed to be rescued following the arrest of manager Manolo Saiz in May 2006. It was Vino who resuscitated a team that was almost killed by Operación Puerto. From the ashes came Astana: a team named after the capital of Kazakhstan, created to help Vinokourov become the first rider from Asia to win the Tour de France.

There’s much more to this team than one man alone but in the year that is expected to be his last as a competitive cyclist, everything will be based around making sure The New Vino puts a fitting end to what has been an amazing career.

by Rob Arnold

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Author: design@ride

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