Alexandr Vinokourov (Astana) will make his 2012 European race debut at the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali at the end of March. The Kazakhstani rider begins his season later this month at the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia, but surprisingly Coppi e Bartali will mark Vinokourov’s first race on Italian soil since the 2010 Giro d’Italia - a race he led for several days.
Astana’s Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli said: “Vinokourov has seldom raced in Italy and he wants to use this appearance at the Coppi–Bartali to pay tribute to the country. I hope his many fans will line the routes of the five stages to cheer him on and reciprocate Alexander's fondness for Italy.”
Vinokourov will be assisted over the five days of the Coppi–Bartali by Astana directeur sportif Alexandr Shefer, currently on duty at the Tour Méditerranéen. Speaking more directly about Vinokourov’s prospects for the race, Shefer said: “He is training a lot at the moment and is managing his fitness meticulously so that he reaches peak condition in April and May. He seems to have made a full recovery after his serious injury at the Tour de France last year so now there is nothing left to do but see how he reacts, firstly at the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia and then at the Coppi–Bartali. This will help us gauge whether he has regained racing form and see how he is feeling.”
2012 is set to be Vinokourov’s final season after a long and controversial career. His sentimental Italian swan song matches his plans to race Langkawi, a race that he stood out in and helped launch his career in 1997.