London, 24th July 2012. With just eight kilometres of a gruelling 250km Olympic road race left, Kazakh cyclist Alexander Vinokourov switched on the afterburners. Legs pumping furiously, he and Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran Uran began peeling away from the main cycling group.
What followed was one of the most exciting grandstand finishes in Olympic history. Speeding down The Mall – London’s most iconic road – with the Buckingham Palace in the background, the duo were neck and neck. Kazakhstan against Colombia, South America against Asia.
After settling for second place 12 years ago at Sydney 2000, Vinokourov was determined to strike gold. Only 500 metres separated him from Olympic glory. He hurtled down the famous ash red road, his entire body off his seat, bicycle rocking dangerously from side to side from the force of his pedaling. The slightest lapse in judgment could cause a crash and send him flying. But Vinokourov could not be stopped. Slowly, the blue and yellow Kazakh jersey edged out the white Colombian racesuit. Gold at last.
This feat would eventually go down as one of Kazakhstan’s most legendary sporting moments, as he became Asia’s only road cycling Olympic champion to date.
London 2012 would be one of Vinokourov’s last, but most important races of his life. After a 14-year-career that saw four stage wins at the prestigious Tour de France, two bronze medals at the World Championships, and a silver at Sydney 2000, the Kazakh cyclist finally became Olympic champion on his last hurrah. He announced his retirement that year upon collecting his gold medal.
Today, he is now General Manager of the Astana Pro Team, the professional road bicycle racing team that he formerly competed with.
He still races – in Ironman tournaments, and won the Ironman 70.3 world title for his age category last year. Age is truly just a number for this Kazakh sporting legend.
Featured photo via here