Will share leadership role with Klöden in the Tour
By Shane Stokes
2006 Vuelta a España winner Alexandre Vinokourov categorically denied on Friday that he had ever had any dealings with controversial doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The Kazakh rider was speaking at the media day of the Astana team, held at their training camp in Mallorca. He was asked about the recent article by the Spanish newspaper ABC which said that a list of several names was found in Fuentes' wallet the day he was arrested in Madrid. According to the article, the card was from the hotel Silken chain in Madrid and had "Ale," "Manc," "Vino," "Popo" and "Valverde" written on it.
Vinokourov is often referred to as Vino but he played down any suggestions that he was involved in Operación Puerto. "You can find my name on pieces of paper everywhere. Even you [the press], after this interview, you may have a piece of paper with my name on it. So it means nothing. For me, there is nothing to say about this."
When asked if he would clarify on record that he had never worked with Fuentes, his answer was brief and to the point. "I have never even seen the man."
Vinokourov answered questions for approximately 20 minutes and in that time, he covered a number of topics including the question of who would head the Tour de France team. It was previously suggested in the media that Klöden would work as a super-domestique for the 33 year old, but Vinokourov played this down.
"It won't just be about me. Andreas showed before that he can do very well in the Tour," he stated, referring to the German's second and third places overall in 2004 and 2006 respectively. "There will be two leaders and the team will play it tactically to ensure we do as well as possible. The main objective for us is to win the Tour de France."
He also clarified that he would stake everything on that race, saying that Liège-Bastogne-Liège and other events were not targets. "I won't go there aiming to do something. The Tour de France is my main objective for the season. However I will take part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège because it's good training for me; I will go there to help Kessler and Kashechkin. I already won this race once so it is not my main objective this year.
"I have already won what I wanted to win in the sport with the exception of the Tour, and that is my big dream. In that respect, is not too risky to stake everything on it, so therefore I will prepare in the best way possible for that race."