Vinokourov targets stage victory at Paris-Nice

Kazakh returns for first time since suspension

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) has said that he is targeting a stage win rather than overall victory at Paris-Nice as the race comes too early in a season where his primary focus is July’s Tour de France.

This is the Kazakh’s first appearance in Paris-Nice since he returned from a two-year suspension for blood doping at the end of 2009. Last season, he opted to race at Tirreno-Adriatico while his then-teammate Alberto Contador triumphed overall in Nice.

“It arrives perhaps a little early for me this year because I have objectives further down the line, like the Ardennes Classics and certainly the Tour de France,” Vinokourov told La Dernière Heure. “But Paris-Nice can never be treated with indifference, you always want to do something good in this race. It marks the big start of the season.

“I’d like to win a stage and help Roman [Kreuziger], Rémy [Di Gregorio] and Robert [Kizerlovski] get a good placing overall. We’re coming to put one of our riders on the podium in Nice.”

Vinokourov has a lengthy history with Paris-Nice, and has met both triumph and tragedy on its roads. He was the overall victor in both 2002 and 2003, but the latter year his win was overshadowed by the death of his friend and compatriot Andrei Kivilev after a crash on stage two.

“That was a turning point in my career,inf my life,” Vinokourov said. “It made me much stronger too. I treated it as an ordeal to be passed in order to go further. Andrei is still there, he’s my brother, I talk to him sometimes. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t think of him, I really miss him.”

Vinokourov is drawing closer to calling time on his racing career and while his legacy to the sport as a whole will be a problematic one, he is determined to continue to play a role with the Astana team.

“You don’t live on nostalgia,” he said. “I’ve experienced some great moments at Paris-Nice and I want to pass that on to the youngsters on my team as a rider this year, while waiting to see how I can help the Astana team profit from my experience later on.”

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