There's plenty of unsubstantiated rumours doing the rounds in the cycling world regarding the possibility of Alberto Contador signing a long term deal with the American Garmin-Slipstream team. After having dispatched some of the best riders in the world almost single-handedly this July in France, Contador is sure to leave Astana. Indeed, it's far from clear if there even will be an Astana team next season.
With Lance Armstrong recently announcing that he is riding for Radioshack, the Texan is also expected to bring along many of his Astana teammates. Once the mass exodus is complete, Contador would be left with a handful of serviceable teammates and if Astana continues he'd also be staring at the probable return of controversial Kazakh Alexander Vinokorouv, who's made it absolutely clear who'll be top dog at Astana in his eyes if he makes a comeback: cue another power struggle, which poor Alberto can probably do without.
But Garmin? Well, the AFP story behind the headlines doesn't have much meat on the bones, for sure. 'Rumours in Spain' are credited as the source, which doesn't exactly sound concrete. Vaughters was asked to respond and wouldn't confirm or deny, hardly surprisingly. he did say that "Alberto Contador is an incredible rider and would be a fantastic rider to have on any team", but would that extend to his own?
Garmin is known for its steadfast stance against doping: the team is regarded as probably the most ethical in the pro peloton and subjects its riders to an array of independent tests on top of the UCI controls. And Garmin have shown in the case of Wiggo that it's happy to publish the results, too. After having fielded multiple questions about doping related matters, and effectively being accused of achieving the impossible by Greg lemond, association with Garmin might effectively put to bed any further allegations from the press or from cycling fans.
Garmin is also one of the best stage racing teams as well and with solid time trialers and mountain men: it would be able to lend very strong support to Contador as he tries for a third Tour title in 2010. With Christian Vande Velde and Bradley Wiggins already in tow Contador would thrust the American team into elite status worldwide as one of the best stage racing teams in the world.
Garmin might look at the flip side of the coin though. Contador has never been one to empirically deny doping, and Garmin may see him as a fly in the ethical ointment - he's unlikely to change his approach. And the team already has a GC contender: Wiggo came fourth this year, and although he's ridden the Tour before this was the first time he'd concentrated on the race with the goal of a high overall position. Parachuting Contador in is not going to please the Brit, who is very well liked both withinin Garmin and in the wider peloton, and he's not not one to hold his opinions back: cue more internal wrangling and power struggles.
So will he or won't he? Well, Contador will certainly leave Astana, he's made that plain. But not for Garmin, surely. There's been plenty of rumour that Fernando Alonso is gunning to lure his compatriot to a new team, and that would fit the bill pretty nicely for a rider who's said on record that his next move would be to a team '100% behind me' - what better way for that to happen than to have a team created especially for you?
Not that it'll be his only offer, for sure. There's plenty of big teams that haven't come through the first two grand tours with much in the trophy cabinet, and they (and their sponsors) will be wanting results next year: what better way than scooping up the best climber in the world?
Where do you think the streaky Spaniard will end up? Answers on a postcard. Or, alternatively, in the comments below
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.