Astana: Bruyneel not out yet

Johan Bruyneel ties up a few loose ends before the start of stage one.

Johan Bruyneel ties up a few loose ends before the start of stage one. (Image credit: Stephen McMahon)

While 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is still tied to the Kazakh Astana team for next season, his current director, Johan Bruyneel, has planned to leave the team, joining Lance Armstrong's RadioShack in 2010. But the mastermind behind the American's seven Tour victories is still in negotiations with Kazakh officials about his leave, as well as the signing four of the team's riders, also bound by contract to remain with Contador: Andreas Klöden, Yaroslav Popovych, Gregory Rast and Haimar Zubeldia.

On Monday, Bruyneel met with representatives of the Kazakh outfit in Monaco to settle his own and the riders' futures, but the meeting ended without being conclusive, according to L'Equipe. "When I understood that we weren't going to agree, I got up and told them the best would be that everyone went home to think it over," said Bruyneel, reportedly angry, as the newly-formed team RadioShack finds itself dependent on Astana's fate.

As long as the Kazakh squad does not free Bruyneel or the four riders for next year, the American outfit cannot present a proper structure to the UCI license commission. But Bruyneel is confident the team will get a ProTour license in any case. "If I have to, I could even take a year off in 2010," said the Belgian, who will be attending the 2010 Tour de France presentation with Armstrong in Paris on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Astana might find itself considerably cut down in terms of staff and riders next year and appear as an almost empty shell around its leader Contador. If the team loses its ProTour status, however, the Spaniard has a last chance of leaving according to his contract.

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