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Contador keeps Kazakh flags waving

Spain's Alberto Contador, 25, after winning the 91st Giro d'Italia

Spain's Alberto Contador, 25, after winning the 91st Giro d'Italia (Image credit: AFP)

Following a press meeting yesterday in Pinto, Spain, Spaniard Alberto Contador is looking forward to returning to vacation. The 25 year-old had been drafted to contest the Giro d'Italia while on vacation with his girlfriend and went on to win the three-week race ahead of Italy's Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott). Due to Team Astana's non-invite to the Tour de France, Contador will have most of July free.

"Honestly, I did not expect it any more," Contador declared on the situation between the Tour de France organiser, ASO, and Team Astana. "I only have the impression that they are punishing themselves and the cycling fans."

Contador emphasised that it was also important to recognise the people who have enabled him to accomplish this dream. "The country of Kazakhstan and the officials believed in this team and I am honoured to have the name "Astana," the symbol of Kazakhstan, on the winning Giro d'Italia jersey. It made me happy to see Kazakh flags in the streets of Milano. This is nice as well for the festivities around the 10th anniversary of the city of Astana."

Belgian Johan Bruyneel, who gained his eleventh career Grand Tour title in his first year as the Team's General Manager, stated that the Giro d'Italia was a significant victory for the Kazakh nation. "It is the mission of this team to foster national pride and I believe that the Giro d'Italia victory and the team's 2008 successes are major milestones for the country. All Kazakhs should be filled with pride knowing they have the best stage racing team in the world. This team is extremely motivated to win and will continue to represent Kazakhstan with class.

"I was touched as well by the support we got from fans from all over the world, many coming from Kazakhstan. The people there followed us. Kazakh television came to the Giro. The popularity of the sport will continue to grow there, and wasn't that the big purpose of the sponsoring initiative of Minister Danial Akhmetov? When cycling sport in Kazakhstan continues to evolve like it does now, the Kazakh Cycling Federation and country President Nursultan Nazarbayev may maybe dream of a future Kazakh big Tour winner."

Kazakh political and cycling dignitaries honoured Contador Sunday evening in Milano, following the final stage. One day later, he was warmly welcomed back to his hometown of Madrid, Spain. Greeted by a few hundred fans at Madrid's Barajas Airport, Contador preceded to the Real Casa de Correos de la Puerta del Sol, where he was honoured by Madrid's Mayor Esperanza Aguirre. In front of 2000 Contador supporters and cycling fans, Mayor Aguirre praised the rider for capturing the race overall win and recognised him as a champion of fair play and clean cycling. He was later paraded in a convertible automobile to his Pinto neighbourhood, where he was embraced by local supporters wearing pink shirts with the message, 'Pinto con Alberto Contador. Gracias Campeón.'

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