Alexander Vinokourov is planning to return to the peloton in 2009. "I think I have my place at Astana," he said in an interview with the Belgian TV show Sportweekend, to be broadcast Sunday evening. The Kazakh rider this summer finished a one-year suspension for blood doping, after testing positive at the Tour de France 2007.
The 35 year-old said that he does not plan to ride the Tour de France. "My first goal is the Giro," he said, according to sporza.be.
Vinokourov announced his retirement in December after receiving a light one-year suspension from the Kazakh Cycling Federation. He was reported to be training for the Beijing Olympics, but this summer denied that he was planning to return to racing.
"I want to return because I don't want it to end this way," Vinokourov said. "I built my image and career bit by bit and I don't want it to stop this way."
He would like to ride for his former team Astana, although he has not yet held talks with the team. "But my fans would find it strange if I rode somewhere else," Vinokourov said. "The team was made for me because I wanted to win the Tour."
Astana cycling spokesperson Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews Saturday that the team had no comment since Vinokourov had not contacted them about his comeback or a place on the squad.
Vinokourov may run into some obstacles to his planned return. UCI president Pat McQuaid said the rider would have to complete a two-year suspension. "There is no way he comes back until he agrees on the two-year suspension," McQuaid told Reuters on Saturday. "The UCI had a case pending with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which we only withdrew because he announced he was retiring."
If the case were reactived and Vinokourov were to serve a two-year ban, he would not be eligible to race until late July of 2009.