Vino "better than I thought"

In the currently ongoing Deutschland Tour, the Kazakh team Astana is doing a good job: the team took...

In the currently ongoing Deutschland Tour, the Kazakh team Astana is doing a good job: the team took their first victory ever as sprinter Assan Bazayev raced to victory in stage 1, and in today's stage 2, Andrey Kashechkin got third. The national champion of Kazakhstan demonstrated that he is one of the riders to bear in mind with a view to the general classification.

The leader of the Kazakhstani pack, Alexandre Vinokourov, meanwhile feels better than he had expected after missing out on the Tour de France. "I'm here to get into the pace of competition," Vino said. "I'm not completely fine yet, but it is normal after so much time without competing. I need more time, but I'm better than I thought."

After the Tour of Germany, Vinokourov expects to ride the Clasica San Sebastian, the Vuelta a España and the World Championships. "I will go to the Vuelta without pressure, but if I see that I am okay, I'll go for the final general classification," he added. "If not, I will prepare for the World's."

With the team slowly but steadily coming out of its pre-Tour de France turmoil, and the management being taken over by a new company to clear the way for a four-year ProTour license, the spirit of its Kazakhstani team members is on the rise. "The team is going to continue forward," Vinokourov declared. "There has been much talk of it disappearing, but I count on obtaining a ProTour license for the next four years. This season I couldn't be in the Tour of France, but I'm going to fight to participate in it in 2007. I believe that I have one last opportunity to win it."

His countryman Bazayev's victory, meanwhile, gives the team an extra boost. "Bazayev's victory is a good sign for the future," he added. "It is good for Assan and also for the team, it gives us so much morale."

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