Happy birthday Alexandre Vinokourov

Alexandre Vinokourov Poptastic (thanks to Panache)

Happy Birthday Alexandre – С Днем Рождения Александр.

The sun has set on Alex’s career as a racer. His last ride, for sentimental reasons, was the Clasica San Sebastian where I heard his short retirement speech in the press room after the race. Yes, he’d come to show off his Olympic jersey(s) and his striking gold bike, giving them another outing before hanging them up in his trophy cabinet along with the gold medal he won in the road race at this year’s Olympics: a fitting end to his 15-year career. He’d also come to try and win after finishing runner-up to this year’s winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) two years ago. It wasn’t to be but, as always, he tried to win. An attitude much appreciated by the crowd, his popularity among the Basque cycling aficionados evident by the number of autographs he handed out and all those queuing to have their photo taken with him one last time.

While no official announcement has yet been made, we fully anticipate seeing Alex behind the wheel of an Astana-badged car next year passing on his words of wisdom and race-craft to his team.

Or does Alex have his heart set on getting behind the wheel of a more powerful car? (image courtesy of Alex Vinokourov)

So as we light the 39 candles on his glittering birthday cake, let’s take a look back over Alex’s long and successful career with a selection of videos and photographs.

Here’s one of the many tribute videos on YouTube displaying his attacking spirit:

Alex has also been a faithful supporter of the local cycling club, which each year hosts a sportif in memory of Alex’s late friend and fellow rider Andrei Kivilev. He and other local professionals take part whenever possible and he provides plenty of Astana goodies for the obligatory post-race tombola.

Alex in one of his limited edition Vino-4-ever outfits at the start of La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev (image courtesy of Stade Laurentin Cyclisme)

Trio of Kazakhs, including Alex, riding in support of their fallen colleague (image courtesy of Stade Laurentin Cyclisme)

We’ve already covered his winning the Olympic gold medal, but here’s a post-Olympics interview in London:

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Alex's blinged up shirt

Clasica San Sebastian 2012: Alex’s blinged-up shirt (image courtesy of RDW)

He’s recently been back in Kazakhstan with the other Olympic athletes to receive recognition of their achievements in London 2012 from the government. Here’s a clip about Alex which was shown on Kazakh television:

Alex and other Kazakh Olympic athletes (image courtesy of Alex Vinokourov)

Finally, here is a picture of what Alex values the most: his family. No doubt they’ll be helping him to blow out all those candles!

The Vinokourovs en famille and, yes, the twins are seriously cute! (image courtesy of Alex Vinokourov)

The Monagesque Cycling Federation is holding a farewell criterium race for Alex around the port of Monaco on Sunday 7th October. There’ll be one race for the amateurs and one for the professionals. Further information here.

Men’s Olympic time trial review

Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins satisfied his country’s expectations when he won gold  – his fourth in total – in this afternoon’s Olympic time trial, held in the magnificent setting of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. 32-year old Wiggins has now won more medals (seven) than any other British Olympian – exceeding the haul of Sir Steven Redgrave – and, after his recent historic Tour de France win, cemented his place in the history books amid cries for him to be knighted or, at the very least, win BBC Sports Personality of the Year. [With those purple and gold rococo thrones as hot seats, I thought he was going to be crowned at the very least – Ed.] This medal caps a truly remarkable and well deserved season for Wiggins and British cycling as all the sacrifices he’s made have paid dividends.

Wiggins hurtles through Hampton Wick (about 2.5km from the finish) en route to golden glory (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

It is Wiggins’ first Olympic road title, having won his three previous golds in track cycling’s pursuit events. On winning his fourth gold medal, he said:

I cannot put it into words. I wouldn’t do it justice. To win an Olympic gold in your home city. When you win in the velodrome, there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don’t think anything will top that. I’ve just won the Tour de France. It’s just been phenomenal. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as [Sir Steve] Redgrave  and [Sir Chris] Hoy is an absolute honour. To be up there with those guys is very special.

Froome added bronze to his Tour de France second place (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Wiggo finished 42 seconds ahead of the reigning German world champion Tony Martin who, given his season – car crash, broken wrist and oodles of bad luck – did remarkably well to finish as runner-up. In third place – ever the bridesmaid, he’ll surely one day be a bride – Wiggo’s wingman and compatriot Chris Froome won the bronze. Taylor Phinney (USA) put in a valiant effort to finish fourth, replicating his road race result. The last three are all young enough to burn brightly in Rio in 2016 as is the youngster in ninth place, Basque Jonathan Castroviejo who came in as a substitute for Samuel Sanchez and was left holding the flag for Spain after Luis Leon Sanchez‘s karma totally deserted him. A snapped chain as he tried to power away from the start gate, followed by a puncture, it wasn’t to be his day.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Spanish national time trial champion Sanchez (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Popular with a lot of our female readers, along with VeloVoices’ Kitty, defending champion Fabian Cancellara mounted a heroic defence of his golden crown but he was clearly in pain from the injury he received after falling in Saturday’s road race. He still finished in the top ten but we’re handing out soft tissues, cuddles and comfort to scores of disappointed ladies. He’s endured a miserable two seasons since leaving Bjarne Riis’ team and will have an opportunity to return to the fold if those stories about unpaid RadioShambles wages are true.

How the race was won

Wiggins was the penultimate rider to leave the start house and he finished the 44km course in 50:39.54, having demonstrated his form by winning both the Tour de France’s long time trials. Despite his efforts to help Mark Cavendish to gold on Saturday, he showed no sign of fatigue and reached the first time check after 7.3km in 8:27, five seconds behind Martin, but thereafter surged ahead to take the lead at the second time check after 18.4km, where he was 11 seconds faster than the German world champion, in 23:14. He increased that advantage to 22 seconds at the third time check at 29.9km, and virtually doubled it over the closing 14km.

Teammate Froome, who had set off ahead of the other contenders, finished strongly to set the provisional best time before being subsequently beaten by first Martin and then Wiggins.

Positive note

With only 37 riders setting off at 90-second intervals over the 44km, this was one of the shortest time trials in time terms I’ve ever seen. But instead of large portions of the peloton coasting round or taking notes for their faster team mates, every man here meant business, setting off with intent from the start house in the grounds of Hampton Court and heading out around Surrey’s pricey commuter belt with the cheers of thousands of supporters ringing in their ears. Wiggo may have had the loudest support, but the crowds which lined the entire route cheered everyone. Britain is finally appreciating cycling. It started with Le Grand Depart [of the Tour de France] in London 2007, has been stoked by British Cycling’s success on the track, Team Sky on the road and it’s reached a crescendo in London 2012. Britain’s gone cycling mad. It’s taken them a while to catch up with their continental cousins, but finally, finally they get it.


They say that to become good at anything requires 10,000 hours of practice. To become great requires so much more. You’ll have to ask Bradley Wiggins whether it was worth it, but I’m guessing he’d answer in the affirmative.


1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) 50:39

2. Tony Martin (Germany) +0:42

3. Chris Froome (Great Britain) +1:08

4. Taylor Phinney (USA) +1:58

5. Marco Pinotti (Italy) +2:09

6. Michael Rogers (Australia) +2:11

7. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +2:14

8. Bert Grabsch (Germany) +2:38

9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) +2:49

10. Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) +3:30

Link: Preview

Men’s Olympic time trial preview

Following on from the first day’s men’s Olympic road race, we now have the individual time trial starting at 1415 BST tomorrow (Wednesday) in the genteel surroundings of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. For the uninitiated, a time trial is a race against the clock. It relies solely on your judgement and pace. It’s you just cycling as hard as you can go and, hopefully, harder than anyone else. A race that’s likely to be rather more predictable – look out for defending champion and Kitty-fave Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland), reigning world champion Tony Martin (Germany), new kid on the block Taylor Phinney (USA), Britain’s first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his wingman and Tour runner-up, Chris Froome.


So who’s qualified to take part? There’s one rider from each nation in the top 15 of last year’s UCI WorldTour rankings, the top seven from the UCI’s Europe Tour, the top four of the UCI’s America Tour, the top two from the UCI’s Asia Tour and the leaders from the UCI’s Oceania and Africa Tours. In addition, ten nations have an extra rider participating as a consequence of their performance  in the 2011 UCI World Time Trial Championships: Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Canada. Additionally, all those taking part in the time trial also had to take part in Saturday’s road race.

The route

At the Tour de France, time trial stages are particularly popular with fans as they offer a full afternoon’s viewing and, more importantly, the riders are easily identifiable as they ride past one by one. While Buckingham Palace was the backdrop to the Olympic road race, the men’s time trial starts and finishes on the driveway in front of Hampton Court Palace. In between is a 44km tour of Surrey’s pricey commuter belt: Esher, Kingston, Teddington, Sandown, East and West Molesey.

The route of the 2012 Olympic Time-Trial

The route of the 2012 Olympic time trial

The course will take the riders setting off at 90-second intervals over Hampton Court Bridge to circumnavigate the Bessborough and Knight Reservoirs, before looping back through East Molesey towards Hampton Court Palace. From there it heads south-west with the first ‘hill’ at the 14km mark, on Lammas Lane. It is quickly followed by the toughest of the hills on Seven Hills Road, 5km later. While the hills aren’t overly hard, the long drag effect can sap the legs quite quickly. A further couple of lumps can be found around Esher High Street, at 29km. The competitors will then ride round the back of the Palace, before heading out to Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond, Teddington and Strawberry Vale, before crossing the finishing line back at the palace. Simon Lillistone, the course designer claims:

It’s a good balance of challenges for the riders. As well as the hills, which are taxing enough, there’s the old marketplace in Kingston town centre, which has different road surfaces, not great visual lines round the twists and turns, so the riders will have to get those absolutely right, which is quite an ask.

As this is one of the few events of the Olympics that isn’t completely ticketed (only required for Hampton Court), there should be thousands of spectators. If you want a good spot, get there early and be prepared to stand your ground.

The contenders

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins would overtake Sir Steve Redgrave’s British Olympic record medal haul with a podium finish. Wiggins already has six Olympic medals to his name – three golds, one silver and two bronzes, all in track cycling, but another medal would seal his place as Britain’s most successful Olympian. Wiggins is also a phenomenal time-triallist, comfortably winning the two long time trials in the Tour de France, not to mention those in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Romandie and Paris-Nice. In 2012 he has a 100% record in the six time trials over 10km he has contested. He also won a silver medal at last year’s World Championships.

Bradley Wiggins on the Champs Elysees (image by Kitty Fondue)

Chris Froome did not make the most auspicious of starts to his time trial career, crashing into a race marshal just 100 metres into the under-23 World Championship race in Salzburg, but things have since been on the up. He was fifth in the 2010 Commonwealth Games time trial before finishing second in last year’s time trial at the Vuelta a Espana to Tony Martin. In the recent Tour de France he was second in both time trial stages to Wiggins. To be honest, he’d probably fare better on a hillier parcours but nonetheless, expect him to be in the mix.

The two Britons have the edge over the opposition as they’re both at the top of their games coming out of the Tour while their main opposition, Cancellara and Martin, have enjoyed mixed fortunes this year.

Cancellara is the defending Olympic champion and has four world titles to his name, but his 2012 preparation has been far from ideal. He smashed his collarbone in April’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, which ruled him out of contention for two months, he left the Tour de France early to be at his wife’s side when she gave birth to their second daughter and he crashed out of Saturday’s road race after he failed to negotiate a corner and is still in pain.

Cancellara alone and in pain after his crash (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Martin is the current world champion and has been on the podium in the past three World Championships. Last year he put more than a minute into Wiggins at the Worlds in Copenhagen and also won time trial stages in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Paris-Nice. He collided with a car in the early part of the season and then, in this year’s Tour, he suffered punctures both in the prologue and first time trial and, having broken his wrist in the first stage, retired early from the race.

Tony Martin (image courtesy of Tony Martin)

Tony Martin (image courtesy of Tony Martin)

Who else might be in contention? The young American pair of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen – both of whom performed excellently in the time trials of the Giro and Tour respectively – Spanish champion Luis Leon Sanchez, French champion Sylvain Chavanel and Italian Marco Pinotti, who won the Giro’s final time trial in Milan.

Link: Interactive route map