Vino Back as a Contender in Tour de France

5 Jul

Alexander Vinokourov, known by the nickname of Vino, showed today that there was life in the old dog yet as the seasoned Astana team cyclist finished a very commendable third in Stage 4 of the Tour de France. He finished just a hair’s breadth behind former teammate Alberto Contador and the stage winner Cadel Evans.

The result leaves Kazakhstan’s top rider in 18th place overall, although it’s very early days with seventeen gruelling stages to go until the finish on 24 July. Only time will tell if his 37-year-old legs will get him on the rostrum in Paris.

Last year the Astana team, which is bankrolled by Samryk Kazyna, Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund, was victorious with Alberto Contador taking the coveted yellow jersey. But Contador quickly turned villain in Kazakh eyes as he jumped ship to join the Saxo Bank SunGard team.

After his victory, ¬†Contador tested positive for the banned drug clenbuterol. He is currently appealing that decision but if he were to lose that he risks being stripped of last year’s title and this year’s – should he win it.

Vinokourov himself is no stranger to controversy – in 2007 he was kicked off the tour and given a two-year ban over blood-doping offences. At the time he was leading the tour. The Kazakh veteran returned to pro racing in 2009.

Kazakhstan will be watching closely to see if their homegrown hero can keep the flag flying for Astana in this year’s tour.

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