By Monika Prell and Antonio J. Salmerón
After a year spent under the scrutiny of the Operación Puerto investigation, and the cancellation of the ProTour licence of Active Bay last Friday, many of the young riders from Manolo Saiz' team are still without contracts. Some, like Alberto Contador, Carlos Barredo, Luis León Sánchez and José Joaquín Rojas are reported to be in negotiations with ProTour teams. But there are still many young cyclists who don't have a contract, such as Carlos Abellán, José Antonio Redondo, Eladio Sánchez (all neo-pros in 2006) as well as Daniel Navarro and Iván Santos (second year pro's).
The signing of Contador to the Discovery Channel seems to be definitive - in Johan Bruyneel's words, "Alberto Contador is lucky because he has got a team for the next season." Carlos Barredo owes his contract with Quick Step to his good results in the spring classics like the Tour of Flanders and Milano-San Remo. Contador and Barredo reportedly signed pre-contracts while waiting for formal dissolution of their contract with Manolo Sáiz and Active Bay.
The situation is not quite as certain for Luis León Sánchez and José Joaquín Rojas. Rojas made his debut last January in the Tour Down Under, where he contributed to the second place reached by his teammate and countryman Luis León Sánchez. The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears manager, Jose Miguel Echávarri, has contacted both riders, but there are other ProTour squads that desire to draft these riders. T-Mobile, Discovery Channel, and Marc Biver's Astana team were all reportedly in contact with the two riders. Astana and Discovery Channel's inquiries didn't go far. "At the moment, [Astana] has not got a Pro Tour licence", Rojas told Cyclingnews. Discovery Channel did not make any further discussions.
The T-Mobile team, who most likely has the best financial resources to take the riders on, and had also tried previously to reach an agreement of with Active Bay to sign Contador, Rojas and Sánchez, but due to contract issues, it was impossible at the time. "Now, I have to also listen to T-Mobile's offer, and then, if there aren't any others, I will decide which one seems more interesting for my future", José Joaquín Rojas told Cyclingnews.