Alexandre Vinokourov is showing some great time trialling abilities as he captured the bronze medal in the World Time Trial Championships. Vino’s third place spoiled the Team CSC domination as he displaced Brian Vandborg to forth. Fabian Cancellara and David Zabriske two of CSCs time trialing specialist took first and second.
David Millar had a bad day as he came in 11th place and three time former World TT Champ Michael Rogers finished 8th.
Cancellara’s win is sweet revenge for the time trial loss to David Millar in the Vuelta. Plus, this win justifies Cancellara leaving the Vuelta just as Sastre needed all the team support he could get going into the last week.
Alexandre Vinokourov won his first Grand Tour in his own way. The man who is always on the attack was finally able to put it all together and upend the Vuelta just as it looked like an Alejandro Valverde coronation. The Spaniards must be crying in their tapas and wine while the fighting Kazak is going home with the Amarillo Fleece. Kazakstan can be happy that they get some positive news in the press and can show the face of Vino and Kashekin instead of Borat to the world. Borat is hilarious, but the wave of Kazakstan news must have more folks that normal checking out background info on the tiny and cold country.
With several stage wins including a sprint stage, a mountain stage and time trial Vino is looking at next year’s Tour de France with renewed enthusiam. After the unnecessary expulsion of his revamped Astana team from competing in the Tour de France, Vino showed the world what could have been in July. This year’s Tour would have been rip for Vino to pounce on with the ameoba like way in which it evolved. Hopefully if Vino’s team does not suffer through any more Operation Puerto issues and gets a full time spot on the Pro Tour then Alexandre Vinkourov can try and plan his year around the one race that eluded him this year.
Now that Vino is celebrating I can’t help but feel that I should be waiting for the other shoe to drop. After Roberto Heras’s EPO positive result and Ivan Basso’s name showed up in Operation Puerto and Floyd Landis’ testosterone positive, you can’t help but feel like you want to wait for the dust to settle before officially acknowledging that Vino won. This has been a tough year for cycling. If all is clear, then this will be the first Grand Tour in about a year with a “legit” winner. Let’s just hope that Vino enjoys his win and his name is not associated with doping any time soon or ever. I just don’t think I could take another scandal.
David Millar completed his comeback from a two year drug suspension by winning the stage 14 time-trial stage. Millar beat TT specialist Fabian Cancellara by a split second to claim the win. Millar made a point to say that you can win clean in this sport.
Those that use the Millar line to determine who dopes and doesn’t dope based on who beats David Millar can now declare the whole Vuelta clean.
Alessandro Petacchi was ready to make his comeback on stage 15. He ended up farther back than he hoped and was so Po’d by the loss that he punched the team bus. Well, Peta reacted like anyone trying to punch Superman in the gut. His finger is fractured and that may mean some more healing time for AleJet.
Vino Vanishes for Drug Testers
When the drug testers come calling, you better be there. Vino and Kazak pal Kasheckin missed out on the drug testing when they decided to take the team bus. When the drug testers came called Vino and Kash were 80km away with a 10am start not too far off. No word on the fallout of missing the tests, but this is not what Astana need as they try to put the Operation Puerto fallout behind them and start as a fresh team.
(pic from Flickr user das jan)
The T-Mobile overhaul continued this week with Mattais Kessler and Andreas Kloden joining old buddies Walter Goodefroot and Alexandre Vinokourov at Astana. It seems like a mini T-Mobile reunion at the Kazak based team.
Kloden’s move to Astana must mean that he does not have many hopes for a high overall placing at the Tour since the team is pretty much Vinokourov’s. Kloden is used to playing support, but has shown flashes of brilliance this year and in 2004. If Vinokourov truly thought that this year was his last chance at an overall win, then getting Kloden on the team gives Astana a strong option in case Vino is genuinely done with the chase for the Yellow Jersey.
Andreas Kloden blasted Olaf Luwig for poor team management during the Tour de France. T-Mobile has never been know team tactics a point which was highlighted last year when Kloden and Ullrich reeled in an attacking Vinokourov. This year the blunders continued as T-Mobile seemed to have one of the strongest teams but would still execute the occasional blunder of chasing down a teammate. Overall T-Mobile probably executed better than in the in the past, but Kloden blames T-Mobile and Phonak for allowing Oscar Periero so much time, a move which could eventually give him the overall Tour title over Kloden if/when Landis is stripped of his title.
Kloden and Kessler’s move may not have been too much of a surprise to T-Mobile management since they did not reward the team’s performance in the Tour with better contracts. Some riders were even offered paycuts according to Kloden.
T-Mobiles shakeup must be long overdue since the team was notoriously known for paying huge contracts but not getting many results. Ironically this is all happening after a better than usual team performance at the Tour de France.
The process for the change of sponsorship from Liberty-Seguros to Astana has cleared the investigation by the UCI. This allows the team of Alexandre Vinokourov to be allowed to participate in the Tour de France. This is a big relief for Vino since there was a very real possibility that the team would not be cleared by the UCI thereby rejecting the ProTour license. That would make it easy for Jean Marie LeBlanc to reject Vino’s team from the Tour.
Now Vino and his Spanish climbing support team can relax and get ready for one of the flattest Tours in recent memory.
(pic from Eurosport)
Comunidad Valencianna (formerly Kelme) are now uninvited to the Tour de France as a result of the Operation Puerto investigation. No surprise from this announcement as it was already seen as a done deal. Jean Marie Leblanc has stated previously that no other team will be invited in place of CV. No surprise there either since at 22 teams there would be a record size for fields at the Tour de France. Plus, it would be a bit late to send out another invitation to a team such as Unibet, Barloworld, LPR or Panaria.
Today, the UCI will look at the proposed switch of sponsorships for Astana, a Kazak conglomerate to take over for Liberty Seguros. If the UCI does not approve of the switch then the currently named Wurth team could be denied a ProTour spot which would guarantee that LeBlanc and Prudomme will promptly send out another uninvite to the shattered Spanish team. Prodhomme has stated that they will not replace any team no matter how many teams get involved in the Operation Puerto scandal. He mentioned that the Tour could run with 15 or 16 team if necessary. There has not been much word on other teams being involved, perhaps Prudhomme knows some insider information, but with only two or so weeks to go, it would be dificult to imaging the UCI pulling the license of other teams.
With the smaller peloton, riders such as Levi Leipheimer might be relieved that crazy Spanish guys aren’t clogging up the road like in 2003. That is the year that Levi went home after a mass pileup that also say Tyler trudge through the Tour with a broken collarbone.
Manolo Saiz finally stepped down from being the Director Sportif of Astana-Wurth, to simply being involved with Active Bay which is the management company that runs the team. Good news for Saiz to step away as his continued presence as DS was very detrimental to the team.
Surprisingly though, Alexandre Vinokourov is not jumping ship from the Astana-Wurth formation. Sure, his presence helped bring in the new sponsor which is a conglomerate of Kazak sponsors. If the UCI does not approve the sponsor switch then Vino will be left on the sidelines only weeks before his major season goal. Does Vino have a backup plan? I couldn’t imagine Vino’s agent would not be trying to secure a backup ride with a team like Saunier Duval or Agributel. Getting on a small French team would guarantee Vino’s presence in the Tour. Only problem would be that he might not have enough support, but at least he would be in with a chance of riding. So Vino, get on the phone to Agributel right away before its too late.
The Kazakistan group that is backing Alexandre Vinokourov’s new team will be represented by Borat
Sagdiyev who is Kazakhstani television’s top media personality.
A preview of the new kit was seen in a recent stage of the Dauphine Libere.
The new kit is out and it may seem like a rushed job, but a Kazakistan company or conglomorate has stepped up to make sure that Alexandre Vinokourov rides the Tour de France this year. With the fallout of Operation Puerto resulting in the departure of main sponsor Liberty Seguros, things looked grimm for the Kazak Tour hopeful. Although it remains to be seen if ASO will allow Astana-Wurth to ride the Tour de France, at least Vino has some sponsorship support to take over from Liberty.
The new sponsor has interestingly decided to use Kazak spokesman Borat to put on the new kit. They even switched to Kazak made Borat bikes instead of the BH bikes that were previously used.
Good riddance to Manolo Saiz from the world of cycling. That of course is if the stories are true and he is guilty. But this is cycling and Europe, so he is pretty much guilty until he is found innocent.
Is it just too much to ask that if you sign a contract with a major sponsor that is taking a chance on cycling that you would at least try and run a clean program? This is tought to swallow for a sponsor especially after Liberty restructured the contract to put a zero tolerance rule on doping. This comes as strike three after two strikes in 2005. Roberto Heras’ DQ as Vuelta champ is enough to take, so why would Saiz simply continue with the doping program when there is so much to lose?
The protests from Roberto Heras saying that he was being setup or unfairly implicated must ring hollow now that Saiz was basically caught red handed in this latest doping affair.
What about Vino?
Podium Cafe has some speculation about whose maglia Alexandre Vinokourov will be wearing when the Tour rolls around. Neil Stephans who was a member of Festina during the 1998 scandal and a team manager at Liberty (Hmm, maybe this guys knows more about doping that anyone suspects?) is proclaiming that the team will still ride even if they have no sponsor. I’d like to know how they will pay Vino to ride the Tour? Maybe he will ride for free since free is better than sitting at home and losing out at a prime chance at win the biggest bike race in the world.
Either way, we will not be enduring the shouts of “Venga Venga Venga” from Manolo Saiz’s bullhorn as he encourages riders to go faster during a time trials. Saiz will be working with lawyer preparing his defense or a guilty plea by July.
If Vino does not stay with x-Liberty, I would guess he would be picked up by a team like Saunier Duval. Vino would make a great combo with David Millar. Two guys on opposite ends of doping scandals. Vino just got burned and Millar is just coming back. The ying/yang aspect is too good to pass up. Either way, if Vino still wins the Kazak National Championships again he can simply slap on a new sponsor name over his light blue and yellow kit. That is of course if he is not in jail or implicated as part of the Saiz scandal.
Alex Vinokourov has been absent from many races this year choosing instead to train on the mountainous roads around Nice. He made a recent appearance at Paris-Nice while out on a training ride, but only to say hello to his teammates and other pals. Before this week Vino has not slapped a racing number on his new Liberty Seguros team kit.
This focus on training is all geared to winning the Tour de France in July, a tough task considering he is not a Time Trial specialist.
Currently there is a rare Vino sighting in Spain, where the Kazak leads the Tour of Castille and Leon. His training seems to be paing off with good form. So, with his current good form, Vino will try to carry it over to defending the Liege Bastongne Liege title that he won last year.
Vino will not have to worry about getting the glue from the racing numbers off his light blue and yellow Kazak champions kit too much this year. After Liege, Vino will only race the Daupine Libere as a tune up to the Tour. Gee, I think even Lance Armstrong did more racing leading up to the Tour than what Vino is doing this year.