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Astana confirm Vinokourov for Tour of Spain

  • Story Highlights
  • Astana have confirmed that Alexandre Vinokourov will start the Tour of Spain
  • The Kazakh, who won the race in 2006, is returning from two-year doping ban
  • Astana team-mate Alberto Contador, the 2008 winner, is not defending his title
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(CNN) -- Astana have confirmed that Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan will return to the team for the Tour of Spain, the third of three major cycling tours, which begins on Saturday.

Vinokourov returns to the Astana team for the Tour of Spain after serving a two-year doping suspension.

Vinokourov returns to the Astana team for the Tour of Spain after serving a two-year doping suspension.

The 35-year-old Kazakh -- who recently becamse eligible to race again after serving a two-year suspension handed out for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France -- will lead the Kazakh-backed team in a bid to repeat his win in 2006.

The Astana ream won the race last year with Alberto Contador but the Spaniard -- who claimed his second Tour de France title this year -- is not defending his crown.

Contador is being widely tipped to leave the team this summer, despite having a year left on his contract, following a tense relationship wth Lance Armstrong, who has already revealed that he is leaving Astana next year to become team leader of the new Radio Shack outfit.

Vinokourov spearheads a team which also includes American Chris Horner, Kazakhs Assan Bazayev and Maxim Iglinskiy, Spaniards Jesus Hernandez, Daniel Navarro, Jose Luis Rubiera and Haimar Zubeldia and Swiss Michael Schar.

A statement from Astana said Vinokourov would also race with the team through 2010: "From August 24, 2009 Kazakh professional rider Alexandre Vinokourov will be part of Astana cycling Team, the team managed by Johan Bruyneel," said the statement.

"On that day Bruyneel and Rinus Wagtmans, the authorized representative for the Kazakh authorities, reached an agreement about the arrival of the Asian time-trial champion.

"Vinokourov's first race for the Team will be the Tour of Spain which starts next Saturday in Assen (Netherlands). Vinokourov signed a contract with Team Astana till the end of 2010."

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