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Dmitri Fofonov (Astana)
Kazakhs will skip Asian titles for Basque tour
Former Cofidis and Crédit Agricole rider Dmitri Fofonov is happy to be back in the ProTour with the Astana team. Coming off the Criterium International, Fofonov reflected on last season's Asian Continental championships where he claimed the road race title. Now that he has a European team, he will not contest next month's Asian championships in Dubai.
The Kazakh rider was left without a team following a positive dope test at the end of the 2008 Tour de France. His ban was lifted by the sport authorities but he had to wait for Johan Bruyneel's exit as Astana's manager to be able to receive a place in the squad backed by his country.
Now, both he and Vinokourov provide support for Alberto Contador on the Astana team which, for the first time since 2006, is registered as a Kazakh team this year.
"We're very happy with how the team is going," Fofonov said. "We're confident that all of us will keep giving Alberto Contador strong support. We haven't won here at the Criterium International but it's not a drama. It shows that we're all humans. As for myself, I can tell you that I'm not finished. I've re-started from zero but now it's all good."
He spent last season racing with the Kazakh national team alongside Alexander Vinokourov, who was also in the same boat coming off his two-year ban. Both contested the Asian championships in Indonesia last year with Fofonov winning the road race and Vinokourov the time trial.
"It was something good for my motivation," Fofonov told Cyclingnews. "It was fun for us to go and ride in Indonesia but it took two days to fly to the race after the Tour de l'Ain," Fofonov recalled. "We had to reach Balikpapan and then go on a bus for three and half hours."
It didn't prevent Kazakhstan from taking the first three positions in the road race with Fofonov finishing solo ahead of Vinokourov and Valentin Iglinskiy coming third.
"We wanted to write a page of cycling history for our country but now, it's up to the young guys who rode Le Tour de Langkawi to take up the challenge", Fofonov added.
Climber Alexander Shushemoin who finished seventh overall in Malaysia and sprinter Ruslan Tleubayev who came third on stage one in Kuala Berang are the future of Kazakh cycling.
The next Asian championships will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on April 10 (individual time trial) and 12 (road race). It's not an absolute priority for the Kazakh cycling federation to have one of the Astana professionals to be the Asian champion although Kazakhstan wants to position itself as an Asian country rather than a former Republic of the Soviet Union.
Fofonov will not be concerned with having not been able to wear the jersey of Asian champion, as he has contested much of this and last season wearing his own country's national champion's jersey having won the road title there, too.