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2012 Olympic Men
When Alexander Vinokourov latched onto the back wheel of Rigoberto Uran to make a two man break with 10 kilometers to go in the Olympic Men's Road Race, and then launched a mostly uncontested sprint to hold off the Nike Coat Girls
And the fact that the race came down to a two rider break rather than the expected bunch sprint was the source of an entirely different set of polemics: negative racing, the role of race radios and the depending on your view rational or corruptive alliances of trade teams, as when Austria's Bernhard Eisel appeared to become an honorary sixth member of the British team with about 70km to race.
And it was a bizarre sprint. Uran launched a crafty move with 10k to go, and Vinokourov jumped on his wheel. The pair worked together up to the final kilometer, likely mindful of the large and powerful chase behind them.
young Colombian for the win, it turned the race into something more than a competition. It became a referendum.
Not all of that can be tied to Vinokourov. The Australians elected to pursue other tactics than working for a bunch sprint for their own reasons. But much of the conversation revolved around Vinokourov himself.
But more a year later, it was alleged that he'd actually bought the win from breakaway companion Alexander Kolobnev. Again, Vinokourov angrily denied it and threatened to sue the Swiss publication that made the allegation, while the UCI promised to look into the matter. If anything came of either of those actions or if they were even commenced it would be news to me.
It's that kind of imperious non answer that frustrates fans and makes them wary. The reason fans respond warmly to Millar and not Vinokourov is not merely to be found in the fact that Millar admitted his guilt.
Uran glanced over his left shoulder and Vinokourov, never one to miss an opportunity, pounced to the right, out of Uran's field of view. When Uran realized his mistake, he briefly tried to follow but the gap was set. "I didn't have the strength to sprint," he said later.
While journalists lobbed the expected doping questions at the press conference, no one, to my knowledge, asked about the old race fixing allegation.
at a stage of this year's Volta Catalunya; the course was well within his skill set.
Vino cut off press conference questions about his positive test by saying, "I closed that chapter of my life in 2007. The question was already asked again in 2010. It is not the right time to ask this question again. Cycling has changed and the organisers are doing a lot to fight doping. I'm aware of the problem and I do what I can in this field."
But as brilliant as Vinokourov is on the bike, he's not exactly expansive off of it. And if anyone was looking for a last chance repentance or even a little reflection from the man himself on the eve of his possibly last retirement, they were disappointed.
As those who think it's hypocritical to support one ex doper but not another are fond of pointing out, Millar's initial behavior when caught wasn't exactly heroic.
I suspect a lot of the speculation arises not just from Vinokourov's past, but because Uran isn't well known to anglophone race fans. If it had been, say, Tim Duggan, Jack Bauer or a famous European racer like Fabian Cancellara who goofed up the sprint, would people suggest he'd taken a dive for short money?
Run down the start list and you'd be hard pressed to come up with a more controversial winner than the wily old Kazakh. Positive for blood doping in 2007, he claimed his rights were being violated, Nike Hoodie 2017
Would Uran take a deal? I have no way of knowing. But nor does anyone else on Twitter. Whether Vinokourov offered a deal or not, I found it disrespectful to Uran to suggest based only on Vinokourov's past and a sprinting mistake that he'd take a payment and settle for silver.
No sooner had Vinokourov crossed the line than critics were questioning his win. Was he clean? It was a bizarre sprint had he bought the victory from Uran?
In 2010, he won Liege Bastogne Liege and was hurt to discover that many fans and journalists didn't trust him. He released a letter to that effect, where he came as close as he ever has to admitting he doped.
But with just over 200 meters to go, Uran led into the final bend and inexplicably swung into the middle of the road, rather than holding his position along the left side barriers to force Vinokourov to attack to the right.
On the other, the argument went, Vino served his time, hasn't tested positive since and the very people who seem to despise him so much at the same time love David Millar, another ex doper who traveled a strange path to these Games. Why is one ex doper welcomed back while another is rejected?
That's not a typo he was just 16 when he signed his first pro deal for Tenax. For more on Uran, read thisexcellent interview with the Colombian focused blog Cycling Inquisition.
And last year after breaking his femur in a terrible crash at the Tour de France, Vinokourov almost retired again, until he reconsidered primarily because of these Olympic Games, despite the fact that Kazakhstan qualified exactly two start spots for the road race.
Millar's difference is that, although he was caught in 2004 and returned to racing in 2006, he's never since shied away from the subject. I've never heard him respond to a doping related question by saying, "I've already talked about that," or "That's in the past," even though it's been eight years since he was caught and he's long confirmed that he's able to ride and win clean.
Since he's in his fifth season on the WorldTour, it's easy to forget he's just 25; he turned pro at 16, in part to support his family after losing his father in Colombia's "la Violencia" when Uran was just 14.
retired just long enough for his ban to run and then came back. He never apologized, admitted guilt or even really addressed the issue.
To the contrary, when he won a stage of the Tour de France this year, he pointed out the win came 45 years to the day after Tom Simpson's death (attributed in part to amphetamine use) and openly claimed the ex doper sobriquet:
His victory also set off the predictable back and forth about allowing ex dopers back in the sport. On one hand, what did it say about the sport that a rider who'd been convincingly caught for blood doping and unrepentant about it was now the public face of the sport on the world's biggest athletic stage?
More likely is that Uran simply got outfoxed by an older, craftier rider. Consider what Ryder Hesjedal had to say to AFP about missing the initial move that put Vino in the large break: "Usually, when Vino goes I make sure to go with him. I wish I had that time."
The odd Nike Sweatshirt With Hood sequence set speculation off about a possible deal. But without other evidence, it's baseless. Uran is a talented climber and stage racer who also finished fifth at Liege Bastogne Liege last year and took past Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez in a sprint Nike Windrunner Men's
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