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Vinokourov thinks about Briançon

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) time-trialling around Charleville-Mézières

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) time-trialling around Charleville-Mézières (Image credit: Luc Claessen)

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alexandre Vinokourov, who has been playing it low recently but continues his rising form in view of the April Classics and the Tour de France later this year, assured that, "everything is going very well for me" after the week-end of racing in Northern France at the Critérium International. The Astana leader 'only' finished 16th overall after Sunday's climber's stage and a prologue-like time trial in the afternoon, but told Cyclingnews, "You won't see the best Vinokourov before the Tour de France, although the Dauphiné Libéré will be a significant test."

Vinokourov seemed convinced in his success possibilities facing the Grande Boucle in July. "Yes, of course I believe in it," he said. "I put all of my season on the Tour de France. From the beginning of the year on, I said I want to win the Tour - it's no a mystery. I have a double motivation: I couldn't participate in the last Tour de France and I'll race representing my country, Kazakhstan."

There will be many rivals for the Kazakh in the Tour de France, but when asked who he particularly worried about, Vinokourov did not mention his own teammate Andreas Klöden. "Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde and Carlos Sastre are the three most serious and dangerous ones," he said, but then backpedaled on the Spanish hope. "Alejandro Valverde can win the Tour de France, but not this year! He is a very good rider, but the Tour de France is also a special event that you can't compare to other races."

Vinokourov already knows the 2007 Tour de France route by heart, and thought that, "It's just perfect! The stages in the Alps will be very hard and even harder than these past years, but it's really a good Tour de France. There will be all the mountains I like very much. The stage finishing in Briançon is also something that could suit me. Really, I'm very enthusiastic about this Tour de France."

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