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Astana amidst complicated race

By Bjorn Haake in Vielha

Astana's Levi Leipheimer first gained, then lost the golden jersey in the Vuelta a España before the race's first rest day, and then regained and re-lost the jersey as the race headed into the mountains. With a strong team performance on stage eight, he ascended back onto the top of the leader board, but on a day that started with a climb and sparked attacks from the end of the neutral zone, he lost the lead to Egoi Martinez (Eustaltel-Euskadi), his former teammate.

Before the start of stage 9, General Manager Johan Bruyneel gave his point of view about the one-two positions that Leipheimer and Alberto Contador occupied, now second and third after the takeover by Martinez. "It's good, but the real serious work still has to start. In Asturias the two stages next weekend are very, very hard, a lot harder than these ones."

Bruyneel was cautiously optimistic about the team's race so far. "We are happy with the situation, but we have the favourite and it is not easy to control the race. We will see what happens."

The team order is strictly put in place, though. "Alberto is the leader of the team. If the logic is respected, he is the best climber. The Angliru is very steep, in theory it should be good for him. But it's always good to have a second guy up there."

Bruyneel explained the team's stranglehold on the race very simply. "This was our main goal of the season, once we knew the Tour didn't want us."

The team has turned the page on the exclusion. Bruyneel didn't see any point in keeping complaining about it. He did however acknowledge that "I won't forget about it. I didn't a clear explanation of why we were excluded; the explanations that have been given, aren't good enough for me."

Bruyneel was adamant in the fact that "the team had been reorganised completely, even though some people didn't want to see it [that way]." In his opinion the ASO-UCI struggle has been terrible for the sport. "It was worse than any doping scandal!"

He was also displeased with the uncertainty with regards to the ProTour or its successor, the newly proposed world calendar. "As of today, nobody knows what next year is going to be like. In professional sport that is not acceptable."

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