Alexandre Vinokourov took the gold medal for Kazakhstan in the men’s road race at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday with a typically canny performance. Twelve years after taking the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics, Vinokourov brought the curtain down on his career in some style as he outsprinted Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) to take victory.
The Kazakh had been careful to follow all the big moves throughout the six hours of racing, and he made certain that he was present and correct when a large group went clear of the peloton on the final ascent of Box Hill, with 40 kilometres still to race.
On the rapid run-in to the finish, Vinokourov’s group was battling hard to hold off the speeding peloton behind, but with 10 kilometres to go, he sensed his opportunity. When Uran attacked on a short descent, Vinokourov was the first to react, and the pair quickly built up a 10-second lead.
Vinokourov and Uran worked well to maintain that advantage all the way back into central London, and then in a tactical finishing sprint, Vinokourov used all of his experience to take the win. After manoeuvring Uran into first position inside the final kilometre, Vinokourov cleverly caught him by surprise by accelerating past with 400 metres to go to take the win on Selle Italia.
Remarkably, Vinokourov had been set to retire in 2011, but he opted to continue for one more year after he broke his femur during last season’s Tour de France. The Kazakh has known highs and lows, and brightness and shadows during his career.
“After so many crashes, returning to cycling was difficult for me,” Vinokourov said. “But was still hoping for a good result.”
While Vinokourov will also ride the time trial on Wednesday, he confirmed that London 2012 is his definitive swansong as a professional. “It’s nice to finish off my career with a gold medal,” he said. “I will still race in the time trial on Wednesday, but I already have what I have wanted. I have the gold medal, and I can think about retirement.”