Contador hopes to end Astana contract today
Tour de France 2009, stage 18
Alberto Contador is hoping to get out of his contract with Astana on Tuesday but it seems more and more likely that the Spaniard will have to ride alongside Alexandre Vinokourov in the Kazakhstan squad in 2010.
Contador hoped that the Astana team would struggle to meet the requirements of the October 20 ProTour registration deadline so that he would be free to change teams.
However, it seems that Contador is in for a shock when he returns from riding a criterium in Cancun, Mexico, because he is unlikely to know where his future lies until mid-November.
Union Cycliste Internationale president Pat McQuaid told Cycling Weekly during the Gran Gala awards evening in Italy that Contador has made a mistake of naming today as a key deadline for his future.
The Astana team only has to supply basic details and guarantees for today's deadline such as naming sponsors and a minimum of 12 riders. McQuaid explained that Contador would only be free to change teams today if those requirements were not met. Otherwise Astana's ProTour application would then continue and would be decided by the UCI licence commission in several weeks' time.
According to a report in Tuesday's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, Astana has already presented its dossier to the UCI and new team manager Yvon Sanquer is confident the squad can continue as a ProTour team in 2010.
The names of 12 riders listed as part of the team include Contador, Vinokourov, Haimar Zubeldia and Benjamin Noval. New signings announced today include Lampre rider Paolo Tiralongo (who revealed he was also in talks with Team Sky), Slovenia's Gorazd Stangelj from Liquigas and David de la Fuente (Fuji). Other riders reported to be close to signing with Astana are Italian sprinter Enrico Gasparotto and Contador's former team mate at Liberty Seguros, Giampaolo Caruso. Kazakhstan riders who were part of this year's team would complete the roster.
It seems that Astana has offered the riders huge contracts, with Tiralongo reported to have doubled his salary.
Much of the team's new staff are also likely to be Italian, with Giuseppe Martinelli and Guido Bontempi named as directeur sportif. They have worked with Mercatone Uno, Saeco, Lampre in the past. They were both with Amica Chips until the team folded in the spring.
A team has to be financially sound and have a reasonably competitive line-up to obtain a ProTour licence. The new Astana team has been cobbled together at the end of the season and will not be the super power it was this year with Lance Armstrong, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer. However, if the team's finances are in order, it seems that just the presence of Tour de France winner Contador could be enough to get a ProTour licence.
Ironically, Contador's own superiority in the Tour de France could condemn him to stay with Astana for 2010.