Alexandre Vinokourov will ride for the last Tour de France in his career as cyclist. At a press conference this afternoon he outlined his goals, discussed his feelings about this
race, and finally talked about his future and that of team Astana.
Alexandre, what is your goal for this 2011 Tour?
As I said from the beginning of the season, my goal for that year would be to wear the yellow jersey a few days, to end my career on a beautiful note. Then, I'd like to win a mountain stage if possible. Then, we will focus on the best team classification . Concerning the general, I know I can not expect an overall victory, I have already finished third in Tour de France (in 2003) and fifth (in 2005) and I am pleased to see that I'm in good shape. I’ve seen I can feel good during one week race like the Critérium du Dauphiné recently, but three weeks is more difficult, we'll see what can happen!
Have you spotted a stage where you would love to attack?
I have not scheduled a stage in particular, I saw that the arrival of tomorrow could suit me for example. There is also the stage Tuesday with the Mur de Bretagne and other stages at the end of first week. But I do not program in advance, when I feel good, I feel that the legs respond well, I'm going.
In your opinion, is it the Pyrenees or the Alps which will decide the general classification of the Tour?
I think that the Pyrenees will be very selective, but are the Alps will decide the final victory. In particular the stage in the Alpes d'Huez after climbing the Galibier, rankings will surely change, and also the time trial in Grenoble might change the standings.
This will be your participation in the ninth Tour de France, what do you think of this race? What is your fondest memory?
It's the biggest race in the world, here we have different sensations than other races, it's incomparable. And it works up to the year for this moment. I think it's a great race and also a great spectacle for the spectators. My best memory, may be the final podium in 2003. And also, my victory on the Champs Elysees in 2005, it was a great surprise, I had already tried several times to win this stage and this is the kind of events that happen once in a lifetime, it’s a very good memory.
It's really your last Tour de France?
Yes, this will be my last Tour, well, my last Tour on the bike. As I said from the beginning of the season, I will end my cycling career this year, in September, I will turn 38, it seems to be the right time. If there was not the Astana team, I think I could continue for 2 or 3 years, not to win the long race, but to win some stages. But I want to do as riders like Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert who decided to stop their career at the right time.
What will you do next? Will you become a manager of the Astana team?
Regarding my future, nothing is decided yet, first I will stay focus on this Tour de France. Then I will take a few days off in Kazakhstan, I will discuss with the sponsors of the team and the Kazakh government on that occasion. I'd love to continue to work within the Astana team, is a project dear to my heart. Become manager is always possible, it is true that this team has been created around me in the beginning, but I don’t want to go too fast. For example I can start working alongside Giuseppe Martinelli to learn, if I had to work in the direction of the team, I want to take my time.
What about the future of the Astana team?
We have a Pro Tour license for 3 years and our sponsor has committed to three years (until 2013), until there are good results, I think it will continue. We follow a political and a sport project with this team, not a commercial purpose. We're here to represent an entire nation and we are really proud of it. For years to come, we don’t want to recruit only stars from other countries, we also plan to train young Kazakhs to win some good races. We hope that the Astana team will be part of a training project, with the creation of a second team Astana to train promising young Kazakhs, so that they incorporate the Pro Team Astana after a solid preparation. For example, Andrey Zeits (who finished 2nd overall in Tour of Turkey 2011) who is here with us in Tour de France, is representative of this new generation of Kazakh riders. He has potential, and if he works hard, I think that one day he will be able to win races such as Paris-Nice.