Alexander Vinokourov gives up on Tour dream

Puts drug ban behind him and vows to help Contador

At the start of his first full racing season since serving a two-year ban for blood doping, Alexander Vinokourov admits he has given up on ever winning the Tour de France. “It was a dream for me before,” the 36-year-old from Kazakhstan said through a French interpreter at the Astana camp in Calpe, Spain, last week. “But now it’s over.”

With his Astana team retaining the services Alberto Contador through 2010, however, Vinokourov, whose two-year suspension ended halfway through last season, still thinks he can be a factor in the race.

“Of course I will ride 100 percent for Alberto in the Tour de France to help him win,” the soft-spoken Vinokourov explained. “He said part of the reason he stayed with this team is that I can help him.”

Vinokourov will start his season at the Tour Méditerranéan and Tirreno Adriatico before targeting May’s Giro d’Italia. And he hasn’t given up on all thoughts of individual glory at the Tour de France, where he finished third in 2003. Should owners ASO allow him to race—something that “Vino,” whose failed test came during the 2007 Tour, admits is out of his hands—he’ll look to animate stages the way he used to and possibly add to his collection of three stage wins.

“I would like to win a stage, if not this year then next year,” he says. “I’m very healthy and mentally more motivated than I was before. This is like having a second youth…I will do everything I can to be at the start of the Tour de France.”

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