Retiring Astana captain hopes Gilbert will replace him
Alexandre Vinokourov, who confirmed Friday that he will retire at the end of the year aged 38, looked highly disappointed after his finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "There's nothing to say, I only had bad luck", he told Cyclingnews. A winner of the race in 2005 and 2010 was well-positioned when he broke two spokes on his back wheel with about 20km to go.
The mechanical incident happened on the La Roche aux Faucons climb, just as Philippe Gilbert was responding to the decisive attack of Fränk and Andy Schleck. Vinokourov took the bike of his teammate Maxim Iglinskiy but lost too much time to rejoin the front of the race. He crossed the line 32nd, 1:43 behind Gilbert.
"I did my best to come back but it was not possible", Vinokourov said. "I felt pretty strong, though. It's really a pity but that's life." His directeur sportif Lorenzo Lapage confirmed that "Vino had legs to do a big performance".
Another of Astana's leaders, Roman Kreuziger, went on to claim fourth place and the team launched numerous attacks, notably with Rémy di Gregorio and Enrico Gasparotto. "The team was very strong", observed Vinokourov. Lapage added Astana was "a great team for Ardennes classics".
Just after the finish, Vinokourov paid a tribute to Gilbert, who is almost his neighbour in Monaco. "This success makes him one of the biggest riders in the history. Chapeau!"
Asked by Belgian TV if Gilbert could join Astana next year, Vinokourov smiled: "Why not? We have to find the money now." Cyclingnews understand Astana is one of the seven squads which is trying to sign the Belgian.
Next week Vinokourov will ride the Tour of Romandy alongside Kreuziger. It will be his first participation in the Swiss race in his 12 year career. "It's a good way to use my good form. We want to win." Vinokourov's schedule includes then the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.
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