As widely predicted most notably by himself Alexander Vinokourov has returned to the Astana cycling team after a two year absence forllowing his ban for doping, and will ride for them at the Vuelta (see the full line-up below). Astana yesterday announced that as of yesterday Alexander Vinokourov was part of the team and had signed a contract to ride for the Kazakh outfit until 2010.
In what could be seen as signal of changing times at the team – Astana's Vuelta line-up announcement is not accompanied by animations showing notable Spanish landmarks ablaze (as was the case with there Tour de France announcement) or any mentions of invading and conquering the Spanish peninsulaI. This could be a reflection of Astana's view of the race in the Grand Tour pecking order or possibly that in the team managements view there's nothing worth burning in Madrid. It's all very low key.
As is the team they're putting out, Vino won't be sharing the limelight on his return with either Alberto Contador or Lance Armstrong. The Vuelta was never part of the American's schedule and it is likely that the Tour of Ireland will have been his last race for the team before he moves on to his new Radio Shack team. Astana.
Contador's absence is possibly more noteworthy, it's his home tour, he is a previous winner and cycling's pre-eminent grand tour specialist has only raced in one of them this season. In a statement earlier this month Astana said they expect Contador to see out the remaining year of his contract – he later begged to differ.
It may well be that Vinokourov's entrance and the imminent exits of Armstrong and Bruyneels is the start of the wholesale changing of the guard at Astana that had been widely predicted since Vino signalled his intention to return from his two year doping band to 'his' team.
Team Astana in Tour of Spain with Alexandr Vinokourov
From August 24th 2009 Kazakh professional rider Alexandr Vinokourov will be part of Astana Cycling Team, the team managed by Johan Bruyneel. On that day Bruyneel and Rinus Wagtmans, the authorized representative for the Kazakh authorities, reached an agreement about the arrival of the Asian time trial champion. Vinokourov’s first race for the Team will be the Tour of Spain which starts next Saturday in Assen (the Netherlands). Vinokourov (Petropavlovsk - September 16th, 1973) won the Tour of Spain in 2006. He signed a contract with Team Astana till the end of 2010.
The team line-up:
Tour of Spain (Spain) 29/08 - 20/09/2009
Directors: Sean Yates & Alexandr Shefer
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.