After the announcement of the International Cycling Union (UCI) that the Astana cycling team has not yet met the ProTour Licence Commission's standards, the squad's leader Alberto Contador may be free to go to another team.
As reported earlier, a clause in the current UCI rider/team contract (2.15.139 article 8.1.f) allows the rider to terminate his contract "if, on 20 October of the year preceding a year of registration covered by the present contract, the UCI ProTeam has not submitted a registration file containing the essential documents."
If he thus signed a standard UCI contract, the two-time Tour de France winner could leave the team early, without paying damages. Contador's brother and manager, Fran, confirmed this to Spanish webite AS. "If this clause exists, we will look at the options that it offers," he said on Friday morning.
"Our lawyers are studying all the details of the UCI rules to take the most adequate decision in the coming days," he further specified in a press release. "They have to clarify if the newly-introduced article [...] is applicable. According to the specialists, the interpretation of the law can be confusing, which is why we need to be certain before taking any decision."
While honouring his present contract with Astana through 2010 remains a possibility, Fran Contador did not discard opting for another squad with a stronger rider roster to support his brother in the bid to win a third Tour next year.
"We will have a meeting with the Kazakh executives soon, so that they can explain to us their projects for next year," continued Fran Contador. "Then, we will decide what is best for Alberto."
The rider himself is also waiting for the legal examination to conclude. "My lawyers are the ones who will determine if it is possible to discontinue my contract or not," said Contador, who is meanwhile continuing his preparation for the 2010 season. "I hope to be told their opinion as soon as possible, as well as the one of the UCI experts, to take a decision."
Caisse d'Epargne or Qucik Step or ... ?
It is no secret that Contador has been courted by several other teams this summer, amongst which Caisse d'Epargne, the rider's own favourite. The Spanish team is in the same situation as Astana regarding its ProTour licence - they must submit the necessary papers to the UCI until November 20 - but Caisse d'Epargne has strong ties with Contador through its leader Alejandro Valverde.
Moreover, the squad has recently recruited several high-profile riders that could, together with Valverde, form the perfect Tour de France line-up for the four-time Grand Tour winner: Italian Marzio Bruseghin, Frenchman Christophe Moreau, Colombian Mauricio Soler and Spaniard Juan José Cobo.
Another team linked to Contador is Belgian squad Quick Step, whose manager Patrick Lefevere would also like to attract the Spaniard. "I still have hope that Contador and four team-mates of his will ride the next seasons for Quick Step. I have put aside the necessary funds," he told Sportwereld.
The team's current leader, Tom Boonen, would welcome the change. "I will be the first to be happy if the transfer is successful," he told Sporza recently. "The squad still had five or six open places in case Contador comes. If he does, he can bring some of his helpers - I have nothing against it."
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