Kazakh squad swap Trek for Specialized as Tour de France champ signs contract with US manufacturer

Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that Alberto Contador will be staying with Astana for the 2010 season – but he’ll be swapping this season’s Trek bicycle for machines made by Specialized after signing a personal contract with the California-based manufacturer.

Contador’s deal with the American firm means that the Astana team is likely to ride Specialized bikes next year, and a change of frame supplier had seemed on the cards as soon as long-time Trek spokesperson Lance Armstrong announced the formation of his new Team RadioShack earlier this year.

The contract, reportedly worth 700,000 euro a year, is said to have been signed on Friday at the offices, near Madrid, of
Specialized’s Spanish distributor and only covers the bicycles themselves, with the two-time Tour de France winner continuing other sponsorship deals such as Giro for his helmet and sunglasses and Sidi for shoes.

The newspaper added that negotiations are under way for a two-year extension to Contador’s current deal with Astana when it expires next year, with an annual salary in the region of 5 million euro being bandied about. But that comes with strings attached from the Kazakh squad’s point of view, with Contador said to be demanding “technical guarantees.”

Those include a stipulation that Astana employ Contador’s own backroom staff, plus a shopping list headed by none other than Ivan Basso, the 2006 Giro d’Italia winner who was banned for the following two seasons following an investigation CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, into his links with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes and Operacion Puerto.

Basso’s potential signing, which the Gazzetta says would be for the 2011 season given he is currently under contract to Liquigas, would be sure to raise eyebrows, especially in light of Astana’s exclusion from the 2008 Tour de France as a result of Alexander Vinokourov’s failed drugs test the previous year, which denied Contador the chance to defend his title. And Basso himself had been excluded by the Tour’s organisers in 2006 as one of the riders under suspicion through Operacion Puerto.

The paper reported that Specialized have identified Basso as the ideal rider to promote its brand in Italy, which it says gives added credence to the prospect of his moving to Astana in a year’s time, assuming that Contador extends his contract.

And with Vinokourov also potentially still racing in the Kazakh squad’s colours come 2011, Tour de France organisers ASO would presumably have some head-scratching to do about which of the Astana team’s riders it would welcome to the race that year.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.