In the final year of his successful career, alexandre vinokourov will return to the race where it all started for him fifteen years ago: le tour de langkawi. The Kazakh super star will lead the astana Pro Team in the Malaysian UCI 2.HC event from February 24 to March 4.
“I’ve always wanted to do this race again but it was never on my team’s calendar or appropriate for my race schedule”, said Vinokourov who took part in the second edition of Le Tour de Langkawi in 1997. A member of the Kazakh National Team, he was scouted by Gilles Mas who directed the Casino team in Malaysia and realized his exceptional strength even though he was sick and didn’t deliver results like his team-mate and compatriot Andrey Mizourov who won the inaugural time trial in Kota Kinabalu. It was the only trip up to date of LTdL to East Malaysia on the Borneo island.
After the 1997 le tour de langkawi, Vinokourov joined Mas’ French amateur club EC Saint-Etienne and signed as a neo-pro for Casino. “le tour de langkawi has a special place in my heart and I always knew that it is a very well organised race”, the Kazakh said.
“It’s a great honour for us to welcome Vinokourov back to Malaysia”, commented Le Tour de Langkawi COO Emir Abdul Jalal. “We wish him to come as a rider, team captain and Member of Parliament.” Vinokourov will be running for parliamentary election in Kazakhstan in January. The close political ties between Kazakhstan and Malaysia and the organisation of the Asian championship in Kuala Lumpur on February 15 and 17 also favour astana’s participation to LTdL.
Therefore, their roster will be fully Kazakh and they have planned one week of training on the paradisiacal island of Langkawi in the lead up to LTdL. Vinokourov will be accompanied by the team’s sprinter Assan Bazayev, Alexandre Dyachenko who finished ninth at the 2011 world championship for time trial and might be a favourite for the 20km inaugural stage against the clock in Malaysia’s governmental town of Putrajaya, Dimitriy Gruzdev who wore the best
Asian blue jersey for several days at the 2009 LTdL, double Tour of Hainan winner (2010, 2011) Valentin Iglinskiy, and Andrey Zeits who came second at the 2011 Tour of Turkey. “It’s a really nice team that astana is sending to Malaysia” Emir Abdul Jalal said. “Their presenceas the only Pro Team from Asia gives credit to le tour de langkawi that has been the highest ranked bike race in Asia for many years.” Vinokourov is set to retire from pro racing at the age of 39 after the London Olympics.
LTdL 2012 is organised by the National Sports Council as a mark of continuity to the organisation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2010 and 2011 in collaboration with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation. The race maintains a 2.HC (Hors Classe) status and is recognised and sanctioned by the UCI and UCI Asia Tour. LTdL 2012 is expected to feature 22 professional teams.
The 10 day race begins on February 24 with individual time trial along a 20.3 km course in Putrajaya to kick off the race; followed by stage 2 Putrajaya – Melaka (151.0km); Stage 3 Ayer Keroh – Parit Sulong (187.6km); Batu Pahat – Muar (169.4km); Ayer Keroh – Pandan Indah (187.2km); Proton Shah Alam – Genting Highlands (108km); Bentong – Kuantan (215.8km); Pekan – Chukai (100.8km); Kemasik – Kuala Terengganu (169.4km) dan Tasik Kenyir – Kuala
astana for the 2012 Tour de Langkawi: