Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov will be leading his Astana team at the 2012 Tour de Langkawi, a press release from the race organisers confirmed on Wednesday. The controversial 38-year-old has announced his intention to retire after the 2012 season and it is fitting that in his last year of racing he will be returning to the scene of his debut in 1997. Next year's race, a UCI 2.HC event, will take place in Malaysia from February 24 to March 4.
"I've always wanted to do this race again but it was never on my team's calendar or appropriate for my race schedule," Vinokourov said. "Le Tour de Langkawi has a special place in my heart and I always knew that it is a very well organised race."
Vinokourov's performance in 1997 as part of the Kazakh national team brought him to the attention of several scouts and was the spingboard to greater things. This coming January, a few weeks before the Tour, he is capitalising on his standing back home by running for election to the Kazakh parliament. The race administrators are clearly very pleased at the prospect of having such a big name involved.
"It's a great honour for us to welcome Vinokourov back to Malaysia," said the event's COO Emir Abdul Jalal. "We wish him to come as a rider, team captain and Member of Parliament. We are very happy that Astana is sending its riders to Malaysia."