Congratulations to Alexadre Vinokourov for winning the Olympic gold. Vino’s always been one of my favorite riders. His crazy attacking style is exactly what makes bike racing great. I can’t think of anyone in the peloton who I’d rather have seen win, yet it’s almost 100% unexpected. Borat jokes aside, glorious nation of Kazakhstan has every reason to be very very proud.
Kazakhstanis are real, hard men. That already reflects early on in their sportive orientation, hardened as they are from growing up in such a ferocious country. Boxing, wrestling, weight-lifting: they don’t raise sissies behind the Kaspian Sea.
What’s most amazing about this victory is that one year ago he “retired” from cycling after a horrific crash. Not only didn’t he retire, he somehow managed to race again by the end of last season. Always one of the toughest guys in cycling, that comeback pretty much sealed the deal.
Vino and his 13 colleagues were given extraordinary harsh training; up to three times a day they gave everything they had in their young bodies, in series of continuous labour. One hour at the crack of dawn, a three-hour trip right after the first meal of the day, and then another 2 times, 60 minutes going into the red right after the obligatory resting period: an education that can either break or make a person.
He raced this year under the guise of helping develop younger riders, which didn’t seem like propaganda. By all accounts it was his most quiet year to date. Finally he emerged in the Tour, one of the only races he never won but was always a major player in—as one of the few who’d flip Lance and the Disco boys the bird and attack whenever and wherever he damn-well felt like it. He didn’t win a stage but became more ever-present as it progressed.
So the Olympics shouldn’t have been a surprise. But they were. A bit like a movie where an old guy comes out of retirement to show the young bucks a thing or two—stuff that doesn’t happen in real life. It was an amazing moment in sporting history and a great excuse to dust off this old article with a bit of Vino’s backstory. Click on the excerpts for some good reading from The Daily Peloton—-a Monday Psyche if you will.
He’s not a man of big words, Alexander the Silent. Everyone agrees that he was born on September 16th, 1973, but there’s still some confusion as to the exact place of birth. Was it Petropavlovsk after all, or maybe Kazakhstanskaya? Almost everyone thinks it to be the former, but Vino doesn’t feel the need to speak out on the subject, he hides the answer behind that mysterious smile of his. “And still, he’s not the shy man that some people take him for,” says Walter Godefroot, the man that brought him to Telekom in 2000. “When there’s partying to be done you’ll always see him on the front line. Bottle of vodka in his hand, making loud jokes, dancing on the tables, that sort of stuff…”
So congrats, Vino, you’ve earned your party. Though if I had to bet I’d wager you were already back on your bike.
pics: ap, cyclingnews, some guy on myspace