Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was booed by some of the crowd at the finish of Liège-Bastogne-Liège today and was then grilled by the press about his remarkable victory.
Vino officially returned to racing last summer after a two-year ban for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France. He has shown little remorse since then and countered every question about doping with a stone face. He denied he is back working with Dr Ferrari and insisted he was now racing clean and that his victory was believable.
"Of course I'm clean now. To win without doping you have to work, I've always done it this way. I want to show the young riders that it is possible this way," he said.
"I'm winning now because I've got the class to do it. I served my time. I've been suspended for two years but I've turned that dark page. I don't want to talk about that subject once again, it's behind me now. Now there's a Vino without doping.
"Since last year I'm back at a high level, after being out for two years. The hard work in training paid off, proving that thanks to hard work it's possible to win too. I wanted to prove that I deserve the confidence from you, and the crowd. Winning here is a bit of a revenge for us."
More doping questions followed about why Vinokourov had recently been training in Tenerife, where disgraced sports doctors Eufemiano Fuentes and Michele Ferrari are alleged to work. Vinokourov specifically denied working with Dr Ferrari.
"Fuentes might be in Tenerife, and Ferrari could be in Saint-Moritz but those are great training locations and I can still train where I want to," Vinokourov insisted.
"I was in Tenerife with a group of about twenty-five riders, including riders from Liquigas. The hotels were full. Who knows, maybe next year some French riders might even join us…
"I've been going to Tenerife since 2003 because it's the ideal location for me. There's the altitude, the weather and the accommodation to focus on training. I can't concentrate on training when I'm at home in Monaco because the family and children don't allow that. I'm not working with them (the doctors). After 2007 I realized that I don't need a coach. In 2008 and 2009 I trained on my own and this year I'm sometimes asking advice from the team coach. But I've got ten years of experience and I'm even passing on my experience to the younger riders in the team."
Next, the Giro d'Italia
Vinokourov was eventually asked some questions about the race and how teammate Alberto Contador rode for him by covering attacks from Andy Schleck.
"I didn't win because of Alberto but thanks to the whole team. It wouldn't have been possible to win today without all of them. Of course it was easier to control the attacks in the finale with the two of us. Alberto marked Schleck and I was able to counter-attack," Vinokourov said.
"After my victory in Trentino I dreamed about winning in Liège but I was worried that I had lost too much energy in Trentino. This is a beautiful day for me, my country and my team. This is an emotional day for me."
Vinokourov is now 36 but will target overall success at the Giro d'Italia in May. He also hopes the Tour de France organisers ASO, who also organize Liège-Bastogne-Liège, will allow him to return to cycling's biggest race. "Today I realized my dream. Taking part in the Tour de France, supporting Alberto and winning the Tour with him is my next one," Vinokourov said.
"After riding the Giro d'Italia I will try to recover as much as possible. I hope to be at the start of the Tour and I'll try to support Alberto. He's young and has the potential to win again. I've won enough races... although after the Tour de France the time-trial world championships could be another goal. Beating Fabian Cancellara seems impossible but I might have a go there."