After not being invited by organizers in 2008, Team Astana has its sights set clearly on the 2009 edition of the Tour de France. The team's hopes are pinned firmly on 2007 winner Alberto Contador.
"Alberto Contador has only one big goal for 2009 and that is to win the Tour de France," said Team Manager Johan Bruyneel in Paris after the presentation. "From now on, he can already start working to reach that big goal, just like Lance Armstrong did in the past.
Bruyneel explained why the next Tour will be good for Contador. "It is a Tour with less kilometers in the time trial. Also good for him is the omission of the time bonuses although he did win the Vuelta due to bonuses. More uphill finishes would have been better, but we'll take the three and not complain. Ventoux at the end of the race is very special. It will provoke suspense until the very end, which is good for the race.
"Alberto proved in the Tour of Spain of this year that he can cope with the role of leader and favorite. He will be ready."
"Many people say that it is a Tour for climbers, but I don't agree with that assessment," said Contador. "There are only three uphill finishes. In the last Tour of Spain Andorra was not so hard and I don't have the impression that Verbier will be very hard, but I will have to go see and ride them."
"Just like every year, it looks like a Tour for a complete rider," he summarized.
Alain Gallopin backed up Contador's assessment and chances. "Even with this atypical Tour, the most consistent rider will win once again. It will be a nice Tour for our Team and our leaders."
In response to the speculation about whether Armstrong would race the Tour next summer, Bruyneel only said, "The decision on Lance's participation in the Tour de France 2009 is for later. For the moment it is 50-50 whether he will ride the Tour. After the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California we will know more."