The legendary film The Blues Brothers was centred around 'getting the band back together'. With the addition of Lance Armstrong, Astana's 2009 squad could use this as its mantra. Procycling editor Peter Cossins headed to the Spanish island of Tenerife and discovered that next season's Astana isn't just Discovery Channel Version II.
Although Lance Armstrong understandably garnered most of the media attention during the two days that Astana gave open access to its pre-season get-together this week in Tenerife, the Kazakh-backed team is a whole lot more than Discovery Channel mark two. Back in the not-so-distant days when Armstrong was dominating the Tour de France, Discovery (and previously US Postal) made no secret of the fact that almost all of their eggs were loaded into one Armstrong-bearing basket, and their success depended very much on what he achieved. But now that he's back, things look very different in his new squad.
More than Postal or Discovery, this team most resembles T-Mobile circa 2004. After a year with Team Coast, Jan Ullrich returned to what had been his long-time home to join an extremely illustrious group of riders, notably Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and Cadel Evans. Armstrong said himself that that team had "too many chiefs and not enough indians". So can the same label be applied to Astana going into 2009?
The answer is not a definite 'no', but it's close to it. Armstrong stated again and again in Tenerife that he had no problem working for other riders at the major tours this season, that events on the road will decide. However, he did admit that he thought "the strongest rider in the world at the moment", Alberto Contador, was having trouble coming to terms with the threat to his pre-eminence within the team. There have been indications that the Spaniard has been looking for a way out of the contract that binds him to Astana boss Johan Bruyneel to the end of 2010, but he's sticking where he is for now.
Read the full Astana feature, A winning formula once again?