Alexandre Vinokourov has showed the form of the best days of his career as he took second place at the prologue of the Dauphiné behind Lars Boom in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. The 37 year-old went beyond his own expectations and that might lead him to more ambition in a race he won in his early years as a professional back in 1999.
"This is a formidable result," he told Cyclingnews from his hotel after the prologue. "I thought I could make the top ten but my legs were turning even better than expected. I'm very happy with this result. I enjoyed the uphill at the start. The prologue of the Tour de Romandie wasn't to my taste [he finished ninth, ed.] but this one today was perfect."
The Kazakh finished third overall at the Tour de Romandie, behind Cadel Evans and Tony Martin. He hasn't raced for a month but went for a training camp in Tenerife with eight other riders from Astana. "The weather was great and the weather was fantastic," he said.
"It's good for my head to realize that my training has been productive, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to ride the Dauphiné for the win," Vinokourov continued. "There are a lot of uphill finishes, so it makes it a very hard Dauphiné.
"For French teams, it's a very important race. I remember with Vincent [Lavenu, at the time of the team Casino with which he begun his pro career in 1998, ed.], the Dauphiné was like the world championship. We don't have that kind of pressure at Astana."
Vinokourov brought a very good team with him in the French Alps with two previous stage winners of the Dauphiné, Maxim Iglinskiy (2007) and Dimitry Fofonov (2008), a winner of the king of the mountain prize, Rémy Di Gregorio (2007), experienced and strong domestiques Andreï Grivko, Frederik Kessiakoff and Tomas Vaitkus, as well as Andrey Zeits who has given an indication of his new status as he finished second overall at the Tour of Turkey last month.
However, the captain of Astana didn't promise that he'll handle the responsibility of the race despite being the highest ranked of the favourites after the prologue. "We don't have [Alberto] Contador," Vinokourov said of his former team-mate, meaning that they don't have the absolute best rider of the bunch in their ranks. "We'll look at what the other teams will be doing. I'm not too much in a hurry…"
If Vinokourov sticks to his plans, he's riding the Dauphiné for the last time before riding the Tour de France for the last time.