Vinokourov confirms Giro, desire to race Tour

Kazakh pledges support for Contador at Tour, if ASO allows him

Alexander Vinokourov confirmed his goals at a team Astana press conference on Friday in Pisa, Italy. He wants to be competitive in the Giro d'Italia, the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France.

"I am giving myself 100 per cent to the Giro now and then I hope I am going to the Tour de France. For me it would be a big pleasure to return to the Tour of France. I want to help Alberto Contador win," Vinokourov said.

Kazakhstan's Vinokourov helped create the team with financial backers from his home country in 2006. His positive test for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France forced him out of the team and cycling for two years. He returned to racing in August with Astana, winning three races.

He will start competition again at the Tour Méditerranéen, 10-14 February. He will then race Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia, May 8 to 30.

"I will start the Giro for the first time, without pressure; [I'll take it] step-by-step. If I have good condition and motivation then maybe I can arrive on the podium. There is not a long time trial, which would suit me.

"There are lots of mountain stages, but if I have good condition then all is possible. If not then I will just aim for a stage win."

Vinokourov, 36, confirmed his other goal is to win the Liège-Bastogne-Liège one-day classic for a second time. Winner of the Ardennes Classic in 2005, he is confident he can race both Liège and the Tour even if the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) owns both races and may not be eager to have him back.

"The team is number one in the world; the team must always be at the start. I hope ASO accepts me at Liège, Critérium International and the Tour. I already won at ASO's GP Nation time trial this year, and I hope to have another chance to start their races."

Astana finishes its training camp in Pisa on Wednesday. Vinokourov will meet for a second camp with his teammates in Spain in January.

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