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Having confirmed that he will be leaving T-Mobile at the end of the season, Alexandre Vinokourov is now being targeted by three teams keen to sign him up as their leader for next year's Tour de France. As reported yesterday, two of those teams are French outfits Crdit Agricole and Ag2r, while the third is Spanish squad Liberty Seguros, who perhaps picked up on the suggestion made on this website yesterday that they and the Kazakh rider are very well suited - well, we like to think we had something to do with it.
Ag2r team manager Vincent Lavenu has confirmed in today's L'Equipe that he has contacted the Kazakh, who made his pro debut with Lavenu's Casino team in 1998. "With Vino it would certainly be easier to make contact with potential sponsors," said Lavenu, although he admitted that it is highly likely that Vinokourov will join a team that can surround him with very strong riders. Lavenu's continental team squad would struggle to do this.
It seems almost certain that Vinokourov will join one of the sport's elite squads, and Crdit Agricole are being heavily linked with the Kazakh. Current team leader Christophe Moreau has had plenty to say about the rumoured signing of Vinokourov in L'Equipe as well. "Vinokourov's arrival would be like an ejector seat for me. How would we be able to accommodate each other?" said Moreau. But Crdit Agricole team manager Roger Legeay has responded by saying that he sees no reason why he couldn't have two leaders in his team.
Moreau, though, is not certain that Legeay is committed to this strategy. "I started talking to Roger Legeay about my contract on the first rest day in Grenoble. He was talking to me about continuity and I was talking to him about my fidelity to the team for the past four years. On the second rest day I brought the subject up again and Roger Legeay was more evasive. He has spoken to me. He could have, like any other professional team manager, come and told me that it was all a tissue of lies or that it was simply the truth. His silence is disconcerting," said Moreau.
Although Liberty haven't confirmed their interest, Vinokourov admitted yesterday that "there is a third possibility that I have heard about today". Intriguingly, Moreau has revealed that he has received an offer from Liberty Seguros, so the Frenchman might just end up riding with Vinokourov even if he moves on.
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