Vinokourov says Astana is targeting overall victory in Tour de Langkawi
Feb 19. VeloNation
Team leader starting final pro season in Malaysia on Friday.
Building up to what will be his final pro season, Alexandre Vinokourov has arrived in Malaysia prior to the start of the Tour de Langkawi and has laid out a high target for his Astana squad.
“We have a strong team, with the potential to win the overall title,” the Kazakhstan rider said upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur. “My job here is to help my team-mates achieve victory.”
Although a fully-fit Vinokourov could fight for the overall title, the former Vuelta a Espa?a winner is still recovering from a bad crash in last year’s Tour de France. He initially said that he would retire from the sport, but later reversed that decision and decided to compete again in 2012.
He is joined in Malaysia by team-mates Valentin Iglinskiy, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Assan Bazayev, Andrey Zeits and Dmitriy Gruzdev. The latter has already spent some time in Malaysia, winning the time trial at the Asian championships last week in Putrajaya.
The venue will also host the opening stage of the Tour de Langkawi on Friday, a 20.3 kilometre time trial.
Vinokourov rode the race in the early part of his career and it completes a circle to return to it again in his final year in the peloton.
“It is great to be back here in my last year as a professional. I’ve always remembered my first time here in 1997 because of the great organization of the race,” he said. “This is my first big race since I crashed at the Tour de France last year and it will be a good start for my season, for me to find my rhythm before heading to Europe for the Classics.”
A number of other strong teams are travelling to Malaysia for the 2.HC race, including the Androni Giocattoli squad of last year’s winner Yonnatha Monsalve and 2010 victor Jose Rujano, plus the Garmin-Barracuda team of Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie. Danielson recently said that the race was a big early season target for him. VeloNation will be reporting from Malaysia on his and the other top riders’ progress.