Astana rider Alberto Contador has continued transfer negotiations with Quick Step, according to comments made by the Belgian team's director Patrick Lefevere on Tuesday. Lefevere said he has been in close contact with Contador and his agents, as both parties await a decision on Astana's future as a ProTour squad.
"We have constant contact. I've already had two meetings with Contador's manager and I've already had two conversations with Contador himself," Lefevere told Gazet van Antwerpen. "At present little is possible. We shall see what the International Cycling Union (UCI) does with Astana's ProTour license. If the license is not renewed, it will provide opportunities."
Astana's financial difficulties during 2009 have increased scrutiny of the team and raised the possibility that it may fall short in the UCI's annual revue of ProTour squads. Failure to satisfy the UCI could see Astana stripped of its ProTour licence.
Amid the uncertainty, Contador himself has made no secret of his desire to leave Astana. The two-time Tour de France winner is anxious to avoid a repeat of the situation in 2008, whereby he was denied entry to the Tour de France due to Astana's non-invitation to the race. At a press conference in Spain last week Contador acknowledged that preliminary transfer discussions had taken place with teams including Garmin-Slipstream, Caisse d'Epargne and Quick Step.
A move by Contador to another squad is complicated by the fact that his Astana contract lacks a buy-out clause. Despite the Spaniard's contractual obligation to the Kazakh squad, it has not discouraged rival bidders.
Lefevere said that while the acquisition of Contador would require greater financial commitment from team sponsors, he was already prepared to hold room on the Quick Step roster for Contador to build a team to support his Grand Tour ambitions.
"Our last contact [with Contador] was on Friday and the conversations have been solid," said Lefevere. "I will reserve five places on my team for riders who he wants [to support him]. One-day races remain important [for the team] in the future, but why can't we race for dual objectives? We proved that we could earlier with Mapei."
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