Alexandre Vinokourov was relieved when he heard that his Astana team didn't lose more than 32 seconds on hot favourites Garmin-Cervélo in the stage 2 team time trial at the Tour de France. But the Kazakh rider was hoping for a better ranking at the end of the day.
"Our goal was to make the top five," Vinokourov told Cyclingnews as he unzipped his skin suit after finishing the stage.
Thanks in part to the initiative of Paolo Tiralongo, Astana eventually clocked the ninth best time. Vino and Tiralongo shook hands after the finish line in Les Essarts, congratulating each other.
"I think we planned our race pretty well," Vinokourov said. "We did our best to take the curves smoothly at the end, but it was a difficult race. We were flat out from start to finish. Everyone did a good job."
This comment included Maxim Iglinskiy, who apparently didn't suffer any consequences from his crash the the previous day. He was the man who collided with a female spectator clad in a yellow jersey on the roadside with eight kilometres to go on stage 1. This accident was what caused Alberto Contador to lose 1:14 to Andy Schleck.
"There were a lot of crashes yesterday but we've been lucky," said Vinokourov. "None of us who crashed were injured. We know that the Tour de France always begins with nervous stages. Tomorrow, we expect a cross wind and possibly more crashes."
Vinokourov travelled to the Vendée province with the intention of riding the Tour de France for the last time. He's rumoured to be ready to announce his retirement soon after the race finishes in Paris although some dignitaries in Kazakhstan would like to see him keep racing until the London Olympic Games in 2012. Not keen to take that on, Vino keeps mentioning his age (37) in different interviews.
"The Tour de France makes every rider dream, whatever his age is," said Vinokourov. "My aim is to wear the yellow jersey at least for one day. This is something still missing in my career. I'm starting this Tour de France with a few ideas in mind."
Vinokourov made it clear that he's the sole leader of the Astana team. After finishing the Giro d'Italia in the position of best young rider, Roman Kreuziger decided to enter the Tour de France as a helper for the Kazakh. The Czech racer is already behind on the GC by 2:21 as he lost time due to the crash on stage 1.
"Many things can happen at the Tour de France but I'm not the same age as Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador," said Vinokourov, who is voluntarily seeking a lower profile. Nonetheless, there is probably a lot more to be seen from the Kazakh star in the coming three weeks.