Vinokourov returns in France

But Kazakh rider's future still undecided

by Kevin Emery   August 4, 2009  

Alexander Vinokourov.jpg

Controversial Kazakhstan cyclist Alexander Vinokourov returns to racing this evening following a two-year doping ban for a positive test at the Tour de France in 2007.

Vinokourov will take part in the 45km Castillon-la-Bataille criterium in Western France but he will not be racing for the Kazakh team Astana.

The 35-year-old, whose ban ended on July 23, had said prior to the Tour de France last month that he would be welcomed back to the Kazakh-backed team, which was created by and for him in 2006. "Astana was created in 2006, it is our baby, I would not want to join another team," Vinokourov said in Monaco.

However, the team's press officer Phillipe Maertens said yesterday that Vinokourov would not be racing under the team's name and the rider had not yet reached any agreement to ride for the Astana squad.

Vinkourov's pending return to the squad was part of the reason for the departure of Lance Armstrong and sports director Johan Bruyneel and the team is heading for a major revamp, with Tour de France winner and Astana rider Alberto Contador also set to join a new team.

Armstrong has since joined new outfit RadioShack while Contador turned down a contract extension with Astana and plans to leave the squad at the end of the season.

Bruyneel, who led Lance Armstrong to his seven Tour de France triumphs, took over management of Astana after Vinokourov's drug scandal.