The UCI has confirmed speculation that under its regulations, Spanish rider Alberto Contador is free to leave Astana and look for another team for 2010.
The governing body announced yesterday that five teams had missed the October 20th deadline for registration. While they have a further month to ensure the necessary paperwork is in order, a rule introduced this summer allows riders to seek another team once that initial deadline has been missed.
This interpretation was quoted by several media sources after the UCI announcement, and both Alberto Contador and his brother and agent Fran Contador said today that their lawyers were studying the rule to verify if this was indeed the case.
The UCI have now confirmed that riders from the five teams concerned may indeed look for other teams if they so wish. "If Alberto Contador leaves tomorrow, we can only say that this option would be complying with our rules," confirmed UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani to Cyclingnews on Friday evening.
The article in question, 2.15.139, article 8.1.f, was newly introduced in July. It states, "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," the rider may terminate the contract "without notice or liability for damages".
Carpani said that it came about after the French H2O team was denied Professional Continental status last year. He explained that this refusal prompted the rule; if riders have to wait until after November 20th and then learn that the team registration has been refused, they are left in a difficult position in terms of finding an alternative deal.
"In our opinion, if you are a rider, you have to right to know if your position is safe or not," he said. "This gives riders one extra month to decide what they have to do for their future."
Apart from Astana, the other teams who must work towards the November deadline are Sky, Caisse d'Epargne, Saxo Bank and Euskaltel. The UCI had announced in September that Sky had been awarded a four year licence but, as Carpani clarified, the latest UCI communication refers to team registration.
"The Ernst and Young company [who verify the documentation supplied] said that these teams were not complying 100% with the rules. However, that doesn’t meant that they will have problems at the end of the second period, which will end at the 20th of November. It could be just that they have something minor missing in their documentation."
Saxo Bank announced Friday that the UCI had approved its application.
Contador has said on several occasions that he wants to leave Astana. However, as he had no buy-out clause, the Spaniard appeared resigned to staying with the remaining year of his contract. He is due to have talks with Astana in the coming days but, as Carpani stated, he appears free to leave. He can thus resume negotiations with teams such as Garmin Slipstream, Quick Step and Caisse d’Epargne if he so chooses.