Alberto Contador staying at Astana…
…says Kazakh Cycling Federation boss
No matter what others, including Alberto Contador himself, might say the Kazakh Cycling Federation is adamant that Contador will ride for Astana until at least his contract runs out at the end of 2010.
Earlier this week Contador himself dropped broad hints that his future lay with the Spanish team Caisse D'Epargne with whom he has been consistently linked all season. Talking about a possible move he told the audience at an awards ceremony: "It's increasingly probable, although it won't be straightforward", adding "We could form a great team, the sponsor is well known and is interested in me."
However Contador hasn't completely ruled out seeing out his contract with Astana, and the Kazakhs are making the most of this possibility.
Speaking to the Associated Press Nikolai Proskurin, deputy president of the Kazakh Cycling Federation was adamant that the team had met the necessary financial standards to see out the remainder of its Pro Tour licence, which expires at the end of the 2010 season, and would be in a position to secure another four year licence then.
He also dismissed widely reported claims that Contador is now a free agent under UCI rules, saying that this was all speculation. Nor is there anything more sinister than some technical hold ups behind the delay in the UCI's approval of the team's Pro Tour team licence for 2010 according to Mr Proskurin.
Astana and the Kazazkh Cycling Federation, which holds its licence, know full well that Contador has been talking openly about changing teams and that their line-up of riders for the 2010 season is unlikely to give him the sort of platform he will want in next year's Tour de France when he renews his rivalry with a Lance Armstrong now backed by his own increasingly strong looking team.
For the Kazakh's Astana's success is a matter of national pride so hanging on to the world's top rated rider and the current Tour de France champion has an extra significance. The Astana team is a flagship project for the mineral rich country Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev takes an interest in the team while members of his family have been more directly involved. Indeed Astana's financial fortunes seem to have been as much linked to the ups and downs of Kazakh politics and the changing fortunes of various presidential son-in-laws as to the price of the minerals on which the country's wealth is based.