Alexandre Vinokourov looks set to return to the pro peloton this summer and has his sights set on winning the world title in Mendrisio in Switzerland.
The disgraced Kazakh rider has not raced since fleeing his team hotel in Pau at the 2007 Tour de France after he returned a positive test for blood doping following his two stage wins.
At the time he announced his retirement but has now gone back on that saying he wants one last season of racing. “I never wanted to finish my career as a pariah,” he said to French sports paper L’Equipe. “I never signed an official agreement announcing my retirement, I only thought about it at difficult moments.”
Vinokourov also stated that his comeback would be in Astana colours, despite the fact that the team has not paid it’s staff over the last months and looks like it will be finished after the Giro. “Back in Kazakhstan it would seen as wrong that I ride for another team than the one I created myself; Astana.”
“My dream would be to win the next world championships and wear the rainbow jersey in my final season – 2010.”
If there is still an Astana team for Vinokourov to ride for come July 23, when he is free to race, it’s not clear whether or not he would be welcome. The Kazakh sponsors will no doubt insist he rides, but team boss Johan Bruyneel has already said there would be no place in the team for him.
But Bruyneel himself may have deserted the team by then. With money seemingly drying up from Kazakh sponsors the wise money would be on Bruyneel supporting Lance Armstrong as he sets his own team up for the 2010 season.
Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor
Armstrong working to save Astana team
Armstrong working on his own team for 2010
Astana sack Vinokourov
Vinokourov banned for a year
Vinokourov denies doping in the Tour de France