Vinokourov cleared for return at Tour de l'Ain

Kazakh says he is ready for return to top competition

Alexandre Vinokourov will make his return to professional stage racing on Sunday in France as he starts the first stage of the Tour de l'Ain. The Kazakh rider was confirmed as a competitor in the race following the release of the final start list by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Saturday.

The release of the UCI's start list for the race brings to an end speculation over whether Vinokourov would be allowed to start the in the Tour.

He told French newspaper L'Equipe on Saturday that he is prepared for the return to top level competition. "In the last two years I have done a lot of riding," he said. "I have also completed altitude training in Tenerife."

Despite racing in a French criterium on Tuesday, where he finished seventh, the Tour de l'Ain will be the first real test for Vinokourov since he completed a two-year ban for blood doping on July 23.

The race includes nine ProTour squads, including Astana, with whom Vinokourov has been unable to reach agreement to race. Instead, Vinokourov leads a six-man Kazakh national team in the five-stage race.

He finished the first stage in 81st place in the bunch sprint.

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