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Vuelta opens door for Astana

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Manuel Díaz, commercial director of Vuelta a España organizer, Unipublic announced yesterday that the organisaiton plans to apply the same ethical rules to the Vuelta as had governed this year's Tour de France. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Astana team which was excluded from the Tour, would be unable to race the Spanish event.

Diaz said that Astana's participation in the Spanish tour was "very possible," adding that, "the new sponsor is very interested in the Vuelta a España." Díaz described Astana's situation as "atypical".

"Astana left the Tour because it did not have sufficient riders to participate, but not for another reason," said Diaz. The entire Astana team was excluded from the Tour de France because five of its nine Tour riders were under investigation as part of Operacion Puerto. With those riders removed under the ProTour teams' ethical code, Astana was left with too few to start the race. However, the organisers of the Tour had previously expressed their determination to prevent Astana from starting.

According to Diaz, the managers of the Astana team were in the process of negotiating to buy the team. "This gives us the possibility of having Astana in the Vuelta a España and seeing the Vinokourov-Valverde duel, that we were not able to see in the Tour de France," he said.

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