Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov has told the Vesti.kz website in Kazakhstan that he intends to take legal action and pursue damages from former team leader Fabio Aru after the Italian confirmed his decision to quit Astana and sign a three-year contract with UAE Team Emirates.
At the recent Tour de France presentation in Paris, Vinokourov feigned surprise that Aru had decided to leave, suggesting it left the Astana unable to sign an alternative team leader. Now he seems ready to go a step further and seek damages.
"We are going to demand some compensation from him for the damage caused because we were left without a top rider. We are grateful for him having spent so many years in our team so it's unpleasant but he chose this way," the Vesti.kz website report Vinokourov as saying. The news was picked up by the Sardegna Sport website, who closely follow Aru's career after he grew up on the island.
UAE Team Emirates confirmed Aru's three-year contract in a brief statement on October 18. The Italian national champion will join fellow new signings Dan Martin and Alexander Kristoff on an overhauled UAE Team Emirates roster for 2018.
Astana had hoped to keep Aru due to an extension clause in his contract but he always seemed keen to change teams.
Aru was apparently obliged to stay with Astana if the Kazakhstani team matched an offer from a rival squad. There were also reports that he was under pressure to pay a get-out clause to end his time at Astana. It is unclear what happened behind the scenes but Aru's decision to sign with UAE Team Emirates means Astana have to rely on Jakob Fuglsang and Miguel Angel Lopez as team leaders for 2018.
There had been several media reports that Aru would quit Astana and move to UAE Team Emirates but Vinokourov claims Aru kept the team in the dark about his plans.
"It will now be up to the lawyers; he left us no choice. He should have said [ed. he wanted to leave] right after the Tour de France in order to reach an amicable agreement," the Vesti.kz website report Vinokourov as saying.
"We could have used the budget to sign another rider such as Uran. There was still time after the Tour de France but knowing just two weeks ago meant it was impossible to sign anybody, all the riders are tied up. Therefore the lawyers will decide things."
There was no initial reaction from Aru or his entourage to the news of Vinokourov's legal action.