Alexander Vinokourov plans to start his 2012 racing season — hopefully his last — at the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali at the end of March. There’s just one hitch: he doesn’t know how much the race is worth.
When Vino won the 2010 Leige-Bastogne-Leige, he supposedly payed Alexandr Kolobnev 100,000 euros not to contest the final sprint for victory. However, the Kazakh rider has yet to figured out what the race is worth should he find himself in a position to win.
“He’s thinking somewhere around 25 to 30 thousand euros,” said an unnamed source at Astana. “It’s not a classic like Liege and it’s early in the season so it’s difficult to determine.”
With many races across Europe and especially Spain struggling to survive in a brutal economic climate, the value of races has fallen. According to several riders, even the price tag for a classic or grand tour stage win has dropped.
Astana’s Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli said: “Vinokourov has seldom raced in Italy and he wants to use this appearance at the Coppi–Bartali to pay tribute to the country.” Tribute is an accurate choice of words, but still, Vinokourov has yet to decide where Coppi e Bartali fits in a bribe scenario.
“You have to factor in the other rider, too, “said Claudio Payolla, a retired pro with plenty of financial experience in the peloton. “If he’s a nobody, the price goes down. If you have a top rider but he hasn’t won anything in a year, you raise the price.”
Vinokourov has a few more weeks before he must make a decision on the bribe for Coppi e Bartali. Astana directeur sportif Alexandr Shefer said: “He is training a lot at the moment.So now there is nothing left to do but see how he reacts, firstly at the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia and then at the Coppi–Bartali. This will help us gauge whether he has regained racing form and see how he is feeling.”
Feeling about the bribe, that is.