By Susan Westemeyer
2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador may not be joining Team Astana after all. Manager Tony Rominger has said that signing with the Kazakh team "might damage his image."
French media sources quote Rominger as saying that "He's currently looking at other possibilities," according to Cyclingweekly.co.uk. "Right now he is closer to other horizons than he is to Kazakhstan." The 24 year-old Spaniard has also been linked to Rabobank and Caisse d'Epargne.
Contador himself said in the last few weeks that it is "likely" that he would sign with Astana, and he had indicated that he would like to stay with Johan Bruyneel, who was his team manager at Discovery Channel and who will take over next season at Astana. However, the comments from Rominger – a close friend of outgoing Astana team manager Marc Biver – taken together with the fact that Contador's name did not appear in the Kazakh Cycling Federation press release announcing Bruyneel's signing, cast doubts on the Spanish rider's future.
Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that Sean Yates would join Astana as a directeur sportif, a role he also filled at Discovery Channel. "Of course Astana has had some bad press," he told the BBC. "But Johan Bruyneel has never had a positive test with a team he has been involved with. And I am confident that we will not have any problems in the future."
The BBC article also states, in contrast to Rominger's statements, that Contador will join the team, as will Levi Leipheimer, who is also not confirmed. "We have a very strong team for the Tour [de France]. Not only with Alberto [Contador] but also Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden]," the Englishman continued. "On paper we are head and shoulders above the rest."