Alexandre Vinokourov celebrated his official retirement in Monaco last month and VeloVoices was on hand. The activites kicked off on Saturday evening with a short transmission on Les Rois de la Pedale broadcast on French Eurosport with Alex and some of his guests who would be ‘competing’ the following day in his invitational criterium: Jubilé Vinokourov.
Here’s Vicent Lavenu, general manager of AG2R La Mondiale, who recruited Alex to ride for what was then the Casino team, no doubt sharing a few of his memories of Alex’s early days with the viewers. With their backs to the camera – from left to right – Jacky Durand (French Eurosport), the great Eddy Merckx and, side on, Guillaume di Grazia (French Eurosport).
The gentleman in the rear of the photo is Alex’s dad who bravely took part in the following day’s criterium along with a number of Alex’s closest family friends from his amateur club in St Etienne plus a number of the Kazakh officials and embassy staff, who were also in attendance for this prestigious event which was filmed for Kazakh television.
The racing took place on Sunday afternoon. First a race for local amateurs and then the main event. But there was just time for a few questions beforehand with the local press who gamely also participated – well, for a few rounds, at least.
The eagle-eyed among you will note that the Astana boys are all in special shirts. These were worn to publicize Astana’s bid to host Expo 2017. It’s in competition with Liege, Belgium, and the winner will be announced in December 2012.
A number of the latest Vino-4-ever shirts on the shoulders of Alex’s St Etienne family.
Monaco resident Chris Froome (Sky) was happy to take part out of respect for Alex and his distinguished career.
Alex had rounded up quite a large team to support him in the race. In fact, it was anyone in Astana colours not riding in the Tour of Bejing, plus new recruits Vincenzo Nibali and Valerio Agnoli. This meant his team was much larger than anyone else’s.
Alex had wisely given the boys mountain bikes – no sense in letting them beat him just yet. They happily rode at the front of the peloton for the first few largely processional laps of the 50 lap criterium.
All ready for the off – left to right – UC Monaco President Umberto Langelotti, 2013 Astana recruit Vincenzo Nibali, Jan Ullrich – now sponsored by a shampoo – Alex, Eddy Merckx, Richard Virenque, Vincent Lavenu and Fast Phil Gil in his all-white world champ’s strip. On your marks, get set, go …
The first ten laps were ridden at a gentle pace but as soon as the tempo was upped and the racing proper started Messrs Merckx and Ullrich were out the back and off their bikes while Richard Virenque rode gamely on, despite being lapped.
Don’t you just love the ‘Vino forever’ signs?
Recognise the rider in red and white? Yes, that’s Davide Rebellin – 41 years young and still competing.
Was it only me who noticed that Vincenzo punctured, stopped, changed his wheel and rejoined the race after missing a lap?
Yes, that is the lovely Mrs Gilbert – a willing recruit as a podium girl – in the background along with young Alain clutching his shades. Poppo’s wife was also pressed into service but, unfortunately, the cameraman’s blocking our view of her but you can just see her red dress.
Thanks, guys, that went all over me!
He’s a bit of a cutie isn’t he? I was of course referring to Alain Gilbert in his Tintin t-shirt.The race was followed by a knees-up [don’t you mean ‘gala dinner’? – Ed] at the Fairmount and predictably the following day it was announced that Alex would be taking up a role as a manager next year at Team Astana.
My cameraman – now relieved of his duties – left his camera battery at home so I had to rely on mobile phones, friends, Twitter – particularly Michelle Cound – and Astana fans for photographs. Many grateful thanks to you all.