By Andrew Hood
Chris Horner (Astana) surged into the overall lead at the Tour de l’Ain in Tuesday’s 8.8km individual time trial won by none other than Alexander Vinokourov.
Racing with the Kazakh national team, Vinokourov is back in the winner’s column for the first time since his two-year racing ban for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France.
The 35-year-old Kazakh was fastest on the hilly course, and showed glimpses that he’s back in fighting form. “Vino” covered the course in 9 minutes, 50 seconds; 10 seconds faster than Michiel Elijzen (Silence-Lotto).
Horner, second in the morning road stage, stopped the clock for third at 13 seconds slower.
That was fast enough to slip into the overall leader’s jersey, now 19 seconds ahead of Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r), who started the time trial in the leader’s jersey, two seconds ahead of Horner.
Horner will have his hands full in Wednesday’s fourth and final stage, a challenging 129.6km course starting in Belley-Coluz and ending on the Col du Grand Colombière.
Vinokourov’s victory, meanwhile, only fuels his ambitions for the remainder of the 2009 season.
He will race next in the Asian cycling championships (Aug. 16-17) in Indonesia and then at the Mendrisio world road cycling championships in late September.
He is optimistic that he will be able to race the Vuelta a España, telling the French Web page, Velo 101, that he hopes to rejoin his former Astana team in time for the Spanish stage race, starting Sept. 29.
“I hope so (to join Astana). In any case, it’s on track. All that remains are administrative problems with my contract. I think everything should be arranged within a week or so,” Vinokourov told the Web page. “Concerning the Vuelta, it’s a beautiful race that I already won once in 2006. I hope that I can race it with Astana. I would like to go to get into top shape for the worlds and perhaps win a stage.”
1. Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ) Team Kazakhstan, 8.6 km in 9:50
2. Michiel Elijzen (NED), Silence-Lotto, 10:00
3. Chris Horner (USA), Astana, 10:03
4. Maxime Bouet (FRA), Agritubel, 10:11
5. Serguei Fuchs (GER), Rabobank, 10:12
1. Chris Horner (USA), Astana, 9:25.57
2. Ludovic Turpin (FRA) Ag2r, at 0:19
3. David Moncoutie (FRA), Cofidis, at 0:20
4. Rein Taaramae (EST), Cofidis, at 0:22
5. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Silence Lotto, at 0:32