Name: Alexandre Vinokourov (Алексaндр Винокуров)
Role: Team leader and all-rounder
2011 World Tour ranking: 16
Twitter: None. He’s a bit media shy – I wonder why?
- Tour of Basque Country: won stage 3, 8th overall
- Tour de Romandie: won stage 3, 3rd overall
- Criterium du Dauphine: 2nd in prologue, 3rd overall, 2nd in points classification
Why I like him:
He first came to my attention at the Tour de France in 2004, where the German television commentators constantly speculated on how he might have affected the outcome of the race. I was intrigued as to why someone who wasn’t even in the race generated so much interest. All was revealed with his battling performance at the Tour in 2005.
Alex polarises opinion, he generates column inches on and off the bike. On it, he’s exciting to watch. You’re never too sure exactly what he’s going to do but you know that at some point he’s going to attack. He’s one tough cookie but he’s got a very soft centre and is a devoted family man.
2012 will most probably be Alex’s last season as a professional racer, thereafter he could become part of the Astana management team or a politician back home in Kazakhstan.
Where to see him in 2012:
He’s going to start his season in Malaysia; first at the Asian Championships and then at the Tour of Langkawi. It’s important for Kazakhstan to support races on the Asian circuit and Alex has fond memories of the one and only time he rode here at the end of his amateur career. He’ll be riding with an all-Kazakh squad.
Thereafter, leading up to the Tour and Olympics, I would anticipate his programme to be not too different to 2011’s, possibly taking in Paris-Nice, Tour of Basque Country, Tour de Romandie, Dauphine and a couple of the one-day classics.
Watch out for regular updates tracking Alexandre Vinokourov’s 2012 season over the coming months.
I shall miss “Vino” when he hangs up the helmet after this year’s Tour.
I think you captured his essence very well. You never quite know what to expect from him, and he always seems to come up with something very exciting. A bit frustrating, perhaps, for fans who appreciate the more consistent type of performer. But “Vino” really sit up and pay attention.
I’m so excited to see this see the light of day! Keep up the great work, guys and gals! I’ll be a faithful reader and follower.
Hey Joe. Agree with your comments. I remember being livid when Vino was caught doping because I have always loved the fact he has that rare combination of extreme talent and the boldness to try the unpredictable. It is riders like him who make the sport so thrilling to watch simply because he is willing to take risks and not just play the percentages.
Even in the twilight of his career he remains one of the very best riders in the peloton and one of the most exciting. I’m glad he has returned for one more year. He deserves better than for our last memory of him to be tumbling into that ditch at the Tour. I hope he will go out attacking. He will be missed when he’s gone.
Thanks for your kind words. I’m sure Alex is intending to make his last year a good one and go out on a high. In any event, he’ll do, as always, his very best. I’m looking forward to following him, it won’t be a chore.
I remember first seeing Vino when he was racing against teammate Jan Ullrich in the early 80s and thinking ‘who is this Bond baddie?’ Oh I love him – he’s got guts, he’s so much fun to watch.
Eighties or Noughties?!? I’ve now got this vision of a teenage Vino chasing a pre-teen Jan home from school … 🙂
Ha ha! Yes, the 00s, not 80s! What a dork!
Bond baddie!! I love it but nothing could be further than the truth. Alex is a real sweetie, but don’t tell him I told you, it’ll ruin his image.
As a reader, when you said “Alex polarises opinion” my first thought was “why?” (I kind of new, but I think it would be worth expanding this bit)
I think it was worth exploring this a fair bit to help add to the article. Otherwise a fab introduction!
Thanks for the comment, Robert. You make a fair point. On the whole, our aim is to be positive about the sport but equally we do not deliberately ignore its dark past (and present, for that matter). I have previously written about the Vino affair elsewhere here http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2007/07/24/crisis-of-faith/ and subsequently here http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2007/07/26/is-cycling-winning-or-losing-the-war-on-drugs/.
I was particularly scathing at the time, because although I have always liked Vino as a rider I felt badly let down by a man whose attacking style I had always admired. And it came in the middle of a Tour in which there seemed to be a new scandal practically every day. (It was the edition where Michael Rasmussen was kicked out while in yellow.) And while I haven’t completely forgiven him since, he did serve his time and he remains a hugely fun rider to watch. We should enjoy him while he can, because there aren’t too many riders like him in the new generation.
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