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Banned cyclist intends to ride for Astana

7/2/2009

MONACO -- Alexander Vinokourov will return
to cycling when his two-year doping suspension ends later this
month, and he said on Thursday that he hopes to ride with his former Astana team.

"I want to announce that I will return to competitive
cycling on July 24," Vinokourov said during a news conference in
Monaco, where the Tour de France starts on Saturday.

"I do not see myself anywhere else than Astana. This team
was created in 2006 with the Kazakh cycling federation; it is
our baby," he said.

He said negotiations were underway with the Kazakh cycling
federation and team manager Johan Bruyneel.

"This team has been created for me, I do not see how an agreement could not be reached," Vinokourov said.
"If there is no deal, Johan will have to leave the team."

Vinokourov was banned for two years after testing positive
for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France. The 35-year-old has
denied any wrongdoing.

He said he would probably take part in the Tour of Spain, which starts Aug. 29, and in the world championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland, which is in September.

Vinokourov, who could join Spain's Alberto Contador and
seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong at Astana, also is
hoping to ride the Tour in the future.

"I am back for one or two years and I would like to do one
more Tour de France and wear the yellow jersey, although I am
realistic, I know I cannot win it," he said.

"I am doing this for my family, for the people of Kazakhstan
and to regain the image I had before my ban."