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.
A great celebration of a fraud and drug cheat. Attended by a who’s who of drug cheats.
Shame that this gets celebrated as festival of cycling. Fast Phil and the Froome Dog just went down a peg or two in my estimations.
What message does this send out.
Hmm, it’s not so black and white for me. I’ve always been conflicted about Vino. He cheated, he served his time and that’s it – just as with David Millar.
I don’t mean to understate his offence – I remember being bitterly disappointed and angry at him when he tested positive – and I really wish he had been more open and repentant about it, but that’s his choice, even if it’s one I disagree with.
What I definitely don’t agree with is the constant crucifixion of cheats who have served their penalty. Do I think less of Vino? Yes. Do I think he should be persecuted ad infinitum? No. Don’t blame the rider – blame the rules which allowed him to come back after 2 years.
As for the event itself, I’m neutral about it. What does it say about cycling? Not much – and it certainly would have had zero impact on those who sit firmly on one side of the fence or the other. Do I think any less of Froome or PhilGil? Not really. Vino invited friends, colleagues and neighbours – Froome and Gilbert said yes. I have no problem with that. Neither was endorsing his cheating, and a celebration event is hardly the place to speak out against doping.
I think it’s also easy to condemn from a distance. If a long-time senior work colleague was sacked for, say, stealing from petty cash and then invited you to his retirement party, would you refuse to go? Personally, I’m not sure I would refuse, and if I did go I wouldn’t expect others to consider it a bad reflection on me.
Good points and agree you can’t shut out all completely. but not sure you can compare vino and millarmind.
1 refused to acknowledge his doping and retired only to come out once his ban has expired. Unrepentant.not even going to go into his buying of a classic.
The other has probably been the most anti drug advocate since admitting and being caught.
It is a grey area but unless riders acknowledge and try to be part of the solution they have no place being venerated.
If vino had only taken the petty cash it would have been ok. £150k backhander is a bit more serious.
Millar and Vino are the same in so far that they were both caught cheating and received the appropriate sanction. Of course, they are different in their responses post-ban. Millar is to be applauded for throwing himself into the anti-doping movement, although he can get a tad sanctimonious at times. Vino is rightfully criticised for his lack of repentance. But ultimately both committed the same crime, and sometimes in our haste to label people as ‘good guys’ and ‘villains’ I think us fans forget that.
As for the alleged buying of L-B-L, I don’t condone that either but equally Vino is hardly the only rider in the sport’s history (recent or otherwise) to buy off a rider – as has been well documented by many riders and authors. It’s a more extreme example than the kind of temporary alliances – help us now and we’ll help you later – which are forged daily within the peloton, but collaborating with/buying off others to shape a race is part of cycling. What I do think is unfair is the extent to which Vino is being hammered for it. Smacks a bit of scapegoating to me. As with the Armstrong investigation, be open about how widespread the practice is and don’t just pin it on one man.
As I’ve said, I’m conflicted when it comes to Vino. He’s a VERY long way away from being one of cycling’s saints, but equally he’s neither the worst nor the only sinner and no matter how ‘legal’ he was he was always a thrilling rider to watch, as much for the races he didn’t win as they ones he did.