Alexandre Vinokourov has confirmed that he is ready to race in 2012 to help keep the Astana team in the WorldTour and has fired a blow across the bows of the managers within in the team who are trying to get rid of him.
Vinokourov crashed out of the Tour de France on stage nine, fracturing his femur. On July 17 he told French television that his professional career was over but a growing power struggle with managers at the Astana team seems to have lead to him changing his mind.
The Kazakhstani rider trained on the road for the first time last week and celebrated his 38th birthday on Friday. He intends to ride the Tour of Lombardy to confirm his career is not over.
“I’m going to ride to show that I am a fighter. I’m not someone that gives up so easily,” he told L’Equipe. “I created the Astana team in 2006 with the government of my country but I’ve felt since my crash at the Tour that some people have only one idea in their heads: get me out of the way. I’ve discovered a lot since July. I haven’t had one visit from my new managers during my recovery, only my true friends have stayed with me.”
Vinokourov claimed that the Astana managers had told the UCI that his contract had been terminated. He has refuted that and is now ready to race in 2012 and perhaps target the London Olympic Games. He knows he is a key part of the team because of the UCI ranking points he has scored in 2010 and 2011.
“I want to just save the Astana team,” he claimed in the lengthy interview, where he again criticised former friend and new Astana arrival Andrey Kashechkin and the way the team bungled his inclusion in the team roster with the UCI.
“The officials close to the government have told me I’m assured the role of manager. There’s huge potential in Kazakhstan. But what’s been going on in the team in the last few weeks has worried me. Its image has been damaged by some people who think they can run a cycling team just because they’ve got a University diploma. They haven’t a clue.
“I want to help Astana stay in the WorldTour. The new managers don’t understand the basics of the rules: the UCI points. Those who want to get rid of me are the same ones who hurt the team by losing my points. But without my points the team would be forced to become a Professional Continental team because they haven’t signed anyone for 2012.”