ANTALYA, Turkey (VN) — Alexander Vinokourov said Maxim Iglinsky’s victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Although Iglinsky himself said his breakout win Sunday in the Belgian classic was unexpected, Vinokourov said that he always believed his Astana teammate could deliver.
“Some say it was a surprise. Even he said he is surprised to win. But I told him that he must believe in himself. I knew he had the strength to win,” Vinokourov told VeloNews. “Sometimes it’s in the head. No one else had the courage to try to beat Nibali. He took the chance and he won.”
Speaking to VeloNews before the start of Tuesday’s third stage at the Tour of Turkey, Vinokourov said he’s been urging his protégé to become more serious and train harder.
With strong results earlier this season, including second to Fabian Cancellara at Strade Bianche, Vinokourov said Iglinsky was already on great form coming into the Ardennes classics.
Vinokourov spoke with Iglinsky on the telephone after watching him race at Flèche Wallonne to encourage him to ride with more confidence on Sunday.
“When he attacked Rodríguez, I said, ‘Boof, he’s going to try!’ If he had stayed there, he could have had at least third place, which would have been magnificent for him,” he said. “But you must take a risk to win. If you do not risk, you cannot win.”
The 38-year-old Vinokourov is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered at last year’s Tour de France and missed the Ardennes classics, where he won two Liège titles, the first in 2005 and a second in 2010 after returning from his blood-doping ban.
Vinokourov insists he’s a changed man and is working hard to return in top shape in time for the Tour de France and the Olympic Games.
“My leg is better, it is coming around. Yesterday I tried but I was really hurting. I still have some way to go. For me, I am still some watts short of my top strength,” he said. “I need to keep working. I want to have a good performance. I hope to be good by the Dauphiné.”
Vinokourov broke his right femur in a crash in stage 9 in last year’s Tour. Many expected him to throw in the towel, but the proud Kazakh said he didn’t want to leave the sport like that. He vowed Tuesday to go down swinging.
“I want to give a good image in the Tour for what will be the end of my career. My head is ready to do it, but we’ll see if I have the legs,” he said. “Of course, I would love to win a stage. After my crash last year, I thought I was finished, but I did not want to end like that.”
Vinokourov said the Olympic Games in London would likely be his last race, though it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him being tempted to ride even longer if he enjoys success at either the Tour or Olympics.
“After the Tour, I will do the Olympic Games. To win? Now that would be a big surprise for me. The course is not ideal for me,” he said. “Just to participate in the Games will be a victory after what I have been through.”