By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Rumours about Discovery Cycling Team Sports Manager Johan Bruyneel's future have been swirling about recently. Cyclingnews spoke to the Belgian at his home in Madrid to clear up the confusion. The Discovery Channel manager, who had just returned from the Vuelta a España and was preparing to go to a race in the USA, explained that "Yes, there have been many rumours around that Astana has contacted me; saying that I was seen flying back and forth to Kazakhstan. That is not true, but I have been contacted directly by the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation, and we are currently talking about [Team] Astana. The Kazakhstan Cycling Federation contacted me last year as well regarding the Astana team but of course I was with Discovery at the time."
Bruyneel confirmed that "After the Tour De France this year, I got a phone call from [Kazakhstan Defence Minister and President of Kazakhstan Cycling Federation] Danial Akhmetov who told me that they want to continue with the [Astana] team and approached me to see if I was interested in restructuring and rebuilding the team. So for the moment I am considering this offer... It's a change of approach for me because I have just announced my retirement from active cycling, at least as a team director. In my mind, I am prepared for that, so this Astana offer is a little bit of a change."
Bruyneel admitted to Cyclingnews that "I'm a bit confused about what to do right now. But at the same time, it is nice to see that there is interest in working with me from the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation regarding Astana, and it is good to have different options. So, I have to see how my mind goes and what I decide down the line. I have to talk with my family and with some other people about this, but right now, I am considering this potential collaboration."
Regarding the rumour that he would bring 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador with him to Astana, Bruyneel explained "As for riders, it is way too premature to say anything now. I still have to decide what I am going to do, and then of course, if it's a 'yes,' I would start to talk to riders, but at the same time, it's getting late in the season. A lot of people are getting offers and there is always a demand for top riders, even if the market is a little soft this year.
"Right now, it's an open question if I work with Astana." Although Bruyneel couldn't give Cyclingnews a firm date for his decision, the Belgian will likely make up his mind before the end of September if he'll take early retirement or get back in the team car with Astana for 2008.
Team Astana announced that it was "business as usual" yesterday, and that team General Manager Marc Biver is bound to the team through 2010. How the presence of Biver will affect the possibility of bring on board Bruyneel remains to be seen.