Alexandre Vinokourov's win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège today in Belgium left fans with mixed emotions. On one hand, it was a strong-willed attack in cycling's oldest race, but on the other, this is the same Kazakh that sullied the 2007 Tour de France when he was caught blood doping.
"That was another time. I do not want to talk about it again. We are here to talk about my victory, not about doping," Vinokourov explained after his win ahead of Russian Alexandr Kolobnev. "I have been suspended for two years and I paid."
Vinokourov never confessed to doping, which makes the victory harder for fans to accept. He said that he would retire after he was caught and he only received a two-year suspension when the International Cycling Union (UCI) caught wind that he wanted to return.
He easily found himself a place back in cycling with a top-level team, Astana - his own team. He brought in the Kazakhstan sponsor to replace Liberty Seguros one year after he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège racing for T-Mobile.
"The win is a big one, five years after the first. It was a big dream for the team and Kazakhstan."
To be fair, the 36-year-old soft-spoken rider did serve out his suspension period. But, can fans still trust a former doper?
"I showed that Vino is here, Vino c'est la classe. I am finished with this wrong and dark page of my history. I would like to show all of you that I can win great races without doping. I am trying to earn your trust. Today is the best proof and revenge for me.
"I worked a lot in two years and I wanted to come back as soon as possible and as effectively as possible. I showed it last year, I was present in the Tour of Lombardy and won other races when I came back."
There are bound to be more awkward moments for fans in the coming months as Vinokourov will lead team Astana at the Giro d'Italia in May. And in July? You guessed it, Vinokourov is planning to help team-mate Alberto Contador win the Tour de France.
"I fulfilled my dream today. My last one could be to help Alberto to win a third Tour de France. I will decide after the Giro."
Vinokourov owes a favour to the two-time Tour de France winner, who helped with today's win. After the Roche aux Faucons climb, Vinokourov safely rode clear with Kolobnev because Contador marked the chasers behind.
Vinokourov gets 'revenge' at Liege: Race report and results
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