By Hedwig Kröner
Team Astana will be deciding on each rider's 2009 racing programme during the squad's first pre-season training camp held on the island of Tenerife from November 30 to December 8. The whole of the team's riders, including its stars Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, as well as Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, will be present to train together for the very first time.
"It's the first major get-together for the team, so all of the riders are coming," confirmed Astana directeur sportif Sean Yates to Cyclingnews. "We will be configuring the programme for next season with the directors and the riders, as well as doing some training. It's essentially the first occasion for everyone to meet."
A master plan will be put together for the team's racing schedules and goals, which also include the riders' own goals. "We will make the obvious choices of the guys that prepare for the Classics, and those who prepare for the Tours. We will sit down, and draw up a plan - which then is of course subject to changes throughout the year. Everyone gets the same amount of races, and we talk to them about their personal objectives," Yates said.
But Yates "doubted" that some light would be shed as to Armstrong's participation in the Tour de France next year. "Obviously, it's his comeback year after three years out, and his priority is to prepare for the Giro," he added. "We'll see from there. We know that Alberto is fully going for the Tour, and whether Lance will be there with him is going to be decided somewhere down the line. Maybe he's got an idea about that already, but in reality, he has to see how he's going to measure up against the opposition first."
Asked whether it would not be difficult for Armstrong to be 100 percent competitive at the Giro, and then return to his highest level again at the Tour - especially in his comeback year - Yates answered, "At this age, most riders prefer to do only one Grand Tour. But I think he's made his mind up to do the Giro. As he's never done it before, he would like to add that to his career. But we all know Lance is a phenomenon, and if his programme is suitable and he's got it in his mind that he wants to do both - I'm sure he's well capable of doing both at a 100 percent."