By Andrew Hood
Alexander Vinokourov is now officially part of the Astana team and is set to ride the Vuelta a España.
The back-room wrangling over the return of Vinokourov went down to the wire, but team officials reached an agreement Monday to ease the way for his return to the Kazakh-backed team.
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel and Rinus Wagtmans, the authorized representative for the Kazakh sponsors, hammered out an agreement Monday.
Vinokourov will be immediately welcomed into the Astana team and has a contract to race through the 2010 season.
His first race in official team colors will be the 64th Vuelta, which starts Saturday in Holland. Vinokourov won the 2006 edition of the Spanish tour.
The 35-year-old Vinokourov is back from a two-year racing ban for blood doping during the 2007 Tour. He raced earlier this month at the Tour de l’Ain with the Kazakh national team, winning a time trial stage before winning the Asian time trial regional championship also in August.
Vinokourov held an unannounced press conference before the start of the 2009 Tour, announcing his intention to return to the Astana squad. That move evidently ruffled some feathers within the management of the team, but now it appears a solution has been reached.
Bruyneel is expected to leave Astana at the end of the season to join Lance Armstrong at the new RadioShack team for the 2010 season.
Bruyneel isn’t expected to be directing the team during the Vuelta. Instead, Sean Yates and Alexandr Shefer will be acting as sport directors during the three-week grand tour.
Defending champion Alberto Contador will also be taking a pass on the Vuelta this year.
Astana for Vuelta a España:
Assan Bazayev (Kaz)
Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz)
Jesús Hernández (Spa)
Chris Horner (USA)
Dani Navarro (Spa)
José Luis Rubiera (Spa)
Michael Schar (Swi)
Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz)
Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)