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The answer of Astana

Contador's answer to ASO was resolute

Contador's answer to ASO was resolute (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Despite his non-preparation, Alberto Contador went on to win the 2008 Giro d'Italia. As much as for his performance, the team will be talked about for its last-minute invitation and the fact that Astana won't be in the Tour de France this year. The decision had them enraged enough that they started winning left and right, taking the Tour de Romandie, the Vuelta a Castilla y León, the Vuelta al País Vasco and Ronde van het Groene Hart, to name a few.

With the latest success, team manager Johan Bruyneel addressed the Tour de France organisers by saying "It is often said that actions speak louder than words. Today I hope that the ASO takes firm notice of the actions of the Astana Professional Cycling Team, not just in our victory at the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but also how professionally we have conducted ourselves throughout the entire season. This is the proof. We have taken a team of riders and staff and under the most arduous of situations won one of the most important bike races in the world. I cannot be prouder of any of them, nor can I understand why we cannot be allowed to defend our title in the Tour de France."

Bruyneel proudly added, "No one in their right mind would think that a professional cycling team with one week's notice could even participate in a Grand Tour, let alone come out on top. My hat is off to our whole team, and to all our staff that came together on such short notice to make this possible. As for our riders, well they saw opportunity where others saw no chance whatsoever. We will toast this victory tonight, not only for Alberto Contador, but for the Astana Team as a whole."

Astana's manager revealed that people wondered "if Andreas Klöden would be our featured rider, following his recent victory in the Tour de Romandie. I say he was a champion here because he willingly took on the roll of 'super domestique'. Unfortunately, he came down with a respiratory infection mid-race, but managed to play a decisive role for Contador in stage 19, before having to abandon. We could not have won without him."

The sports directors Alain Gallopin, Sean Yates and Alexandr Shefer always hoped that the team would eventually be allowed to race in the Giro, but to be told just one week prior was definitely not on their wish list. Bruyneel explained that "We have faced many challenges over the years, but none as difficult as putting together a squad with just seven days notice. This, coupled with a very difficult first week's racing, tested our team in ways we could never have imagined. To say I am proud of our staff and riders is truly an understatement; they accomplished the impossible and yet did it in the most professional manner I can think of."

Bruyneel summed up the year, concluding, "This year has been very interesting to me and Team Astana. Coming off of multiple years before when we won the Tour de France with our formula, we have now had to face a lot of adversity and challenge upon challenge in 2008. And yet here we are, with 16 victories this year, as well as the #1 and the #3 finishers in the most recent Tour de France. And now we have won the Giro d'Italia in a true team effort, with Alberto Contador leading the way. Where do we go from here? Regrettably we do not have much say in that decision. But wherever it is, know this: we will come to win, period."

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