Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) is back in the winner’s circle for the first time this season after winning Tuesday’s opening prologue at the four-day Giro del Trentino.
Vinokourov – who returned to competition last year after serving a racing ban for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France – covered the 12.5km course in 15 minutes, 7 seconds (49.59kph) to grab the win and the leader’s jersey.
The Kazakh rider paced to a 16-second victory ahead of Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) while Matteo Montaguti (De Rosa-Stac) stopped the clock for third at 18 seconds slower.
Other favorites for victory in the warm-up race geared toward Giro d’Italia contenders were well off the pace, with Michele Scarponi (Androni) the best of the rest at 23 seconds back. Riccardo Riccò (Flaminia) was 30 seconds slower and defending champion Ivan Basso (Liquigas) was 34 seconds off the pace.
Gilberto Simoni, who hails from the region, lined up for what will be his final Giro del Trentino wearing his new Lampre jersey. The 39-year-old penned a deal to join his former team for this race and what will be his final Giro d’Italia next month.
The victory bodes well for Vinokourov, who vows to ride in support of Astana teammate Alberto Contador in this year’s Tour de France.
Last season, Vinokourov won a time trial at the Tour de l’Ain, the Asian time trial championships and the Chrono des Nations.
So far this season, Vinokourov’s best was fifth overall at the Tour Méditerrenéen in February, 34th at Tirreno-Adriatico and 25th a Criterium International.
Vinokourov will be put to the test in Wednesday’s 172.5km second stage from Dro to San Martino di Castrozza. The stage features two first category climbs, the first at the Passo del Broncon at 125km and the summit finish up an average grade of 6.4 percent.
Giro del Trentino – Stage 1
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kz), Astana, 12.5 km in 15:07 (49.59kph)
2. Stefano Garzelli (I), Acqua e Sapone, at 0:16
3. Matteo Montaguti (I), De Rosa, at 0:18
4. Michele Scarponi (I), Androni, at 0:22
5. Piet Rooijakkers (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 0:24