By Hedwig Kröner in Paris
As one of the key players – or perhaps the key player – for the next year's Tour de France, newly-appointed Astana team director Johan Bruyneel could of course not miss the fancy unveiling of the 2008 race route in Paris on Thursday. Although the long-awaited retrospective film of this year's Grand Tour did not include any of those spectacular duels between his team captain and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador and now-persona non grata Michael Rasmussen in the mountains, the Belgian already drew up next year's strategy plan for his riders.
Meanwhile, the tactician cannot even be certain about the participation of his 2008 team, which has to re-build its credibility after the events surrounding former Astana leaders Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin this summer. Meanwhile, Tour de France organiser ASO still standing firm against the International Cycling Union (UCI), keeping team selection in its own hands.
However, Bruyneel felt confident about the inclusion of the 'new' Astana team. "The organisers have the right to decide participation to their races," the mastermind of seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong told Cyclingnews after the presentation of the 2008 parcours. "[ASO president] Patrice Clerc said that none of the teams should feel sure about their participation. Now, we [the teams] are all on the same level and have to prove our eligibility. We at Astana might have to prove this a bit more than the other teams.
"I can't erase what happened at Astana this year, but now we are starting a new project with a new philosophy, a new idea and a new structure," Bruyneel continued, saying that he is taking 80 percent of the Discovery Channel team staff with him to Astana. "I have to prove that it's a new team which will be ready for the Tour de France."
In order to substantiate this and convince ASO of Astana's good faith, the new director of the possibly strongest squad in the peloton next year announced that he would unveil the team's anti-doping programme in the next couple of weeks. "And we will have actions follow our words," he insisted. "I'm very confident for our participation."