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Alberto Contador's Astana teammates were always near the yellow jersey holder.
Noval, Navarro and Hernández likely to join Contador
With his own move from Astana to SunGard-Saxo Bank now secured and confirmed, Alberto Contador is hoping that at least three of his current teammates will make the same move for 2011.
Speaking before his victory in Tuesday evening’s criterium at Castillon-la-Bataille, near Bordeaux, Contador said that he would like fellow Spaniards Benjamín Noval, Jesús Hernández and Dani Navarro to join him at Saxo Bank-SunGard, to give the team a much more Spanish feel. Contador would have liked to have Paolo Tiralongo with him at Saxo Bank but the experienced Italian is under contract with Astana for 2011.
“There will be lots of very good riders in my next team. I’ve been asked who I would like to come with me. Nothing has been decided but my wish would be for Noval, Hernández and Navarro to join me,” Contador said just before what was almost certain to be his final race appearance in Astana kit.
Navarro, who was the strongest of Contador’s domestiques in the mountains during the Tour de France, was also in Castillon-la-Bataille. He admitted he is close to a deal with Riis’s team. “Will I be racing with Alberto again next season? It’s almost certain that I will be. But don’t forget to write ‘almost’,” Navarro replied when
asked about his future.
According to a report in his native region of Asturias, Noval has already agreed a two-year deal with Saxo Bank-SunGard. La Voz de Asturias newspaper indicates that Hernández and David De La Fuente will also receive offers to join Contador.
However, David De La Fuente told El Diario Montañes in his home region of Cantabria that his future is still up in the air. “The only thing I can say is that in the short term I will be riding the Vuelta a España,” said De La Fuente, who joined Astana this year from Fuji-Servetto on a one-year deal.
Asked about reports linking him with Contador’s new team, De La Fuente replied: “I don’t know anything about that; I just know what you do. I still haven’t decided what I will be doing and there’s as much chance of me staying where I am now as going somewhere else.”
De La Fuente said he had not spoken to Contador in recent days. “He’s been busy riding criteriums, but I will speak to him when things calm down a bit.”
Astana team captain Alexandre Vinokourov was also in Castillon-la-Bataille. Asked about Contador’s move, the Kazakh told Sud Ouest: “I would have preferred Alberto to stay, but he is doing what he wants, as will those riders who go with him. That’s professional cycling. With Alberto in the team we have won two Tours, the Giro and the Vuelta, which is a good return. If he’s had a better offer, it’s normal for him to leave.”
On the subject of possible replacements for the Spaniard, Vinokourov replied: “We’re thinking about [Denis] Menchov, [Roman] Kreuziger and why not the Schleck brothers. I don’t think their deal is signed yet.”