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Vino improves, needs more time

Vino improves, needs more time
By Eurosport

04/08/2006 at 12:34Updated

Alexandre Vinokourov is happy with his return after his absence from the Tour de France, but says he needs more time to become fully fit. The Kazakh Astana leader looked good on the shorter climbs at the Tour of Germany on Thursday, but says he is only ra

"I'm here to get into the pace of competition," Vinokourov was quoted as saying on his official website. "I'm not completely fine yet, but it is normal after so much time without competing. I need more time, but I'm better than I thought."

The 32-year-old was denied his chance at the yellow jersey when his team was suspended from racing in this year's Grande Boucle for their involvement in the Operation Puerto doping scandal.

But with the now fully Kazakh sponsored team cleared to race in the next grand Tour at the Vuelta, Vino plans to contend for the leader's jersey in Spain - if he is ready by the August 25th start date.

"I will go to the Vuelta without pressure, but if I see that I am okay, I'll go for the final general classification," Vino said. "If not, I will prepare for the Worlds."

Despite missing this year's Grande Buocle, Vinokourov thinks he will have one final chance to win that elusive yellow jersey next year.

"This season I couldn't be in the Tour of France, but I'm going to fight to participate in it in 2007," he said. "I believe that I have one last opportunity to win it."

"There has been much talk of it disappearing, but I count on obtaining a ProTour license for the next four years."

Astana have received a boost in recent days with the additions of director general Marc Biver and sporting director Walter Godefroot, as well as the team's first victory on the Pro Tour thanks to Assan Bazayev's Stage 1 win in Germany.

"Bazayev's victory is a good sign for the future," he added. "It is good for Assan and also for the team, it gives us so much morale."

On Friday's third stage the peloton travels 203-km from Witzenhausen to Schweinfurt with two Cat. 3 climbs.

Follow LIVE coverage of the Tour of Germany all week on www.eurosport.com.

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