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Germany

Cyclist Vinokourov to Leave T-Mobile

Kazakh cyclist Alexander Vinokourov will leave T-Mobile at the end of this season when his contract comes to an end, according to the German team's official Web site. The news was released before the start of Wednesday's 17th stage of the Tour de France after Vinokourov held talks with T-Mobile's sporting director Olaf Ludwig. Vinokourov, who finished third in the 2003 edition of the Tour de France, was considered a major threat to Lance Armstrong before the start of this year's race. "Alexander would like to have one last shot at winning the Tour de France as a team leader" explained Ludwig. "We regret his decision but we understand and respect his reasons," he added. Vinokourov has had a rollercoaster style Tour as he currently stands ninth in the general standings with one stage win under his belt after success in the 11th stage that finished in Briancon. Vinokourov turned professional in 1998, when he signed for the French team Casino, and then joined forces with T-Mobile in 2000 when the outfit was called Deutsche Telekom. The Kazakhastan-born rider has a glittering curriculum vitae after wins in the Criterium du Dauphine Libere (1998), Paris-Nice (2002/2003), the Tour of Switzerland (2003) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic this year. Vinokourov is very much a rider in demand. Before the Tour de France started Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel admitted they were interested in signing him.

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