Haimar Zubeldia has confirmed that he will be joining the mass exodus of talent from Astana to RadioShack. The 32-year-old Spanish rider has managed to extricate himself from the final year of a two-year deal he had signed with the Kazakh team in order to follow Johan Bruyneel and Co to the new American team.
Speaking to Todociclismo.com, Zubeldia admitted that he had thought long and hard about whether to stay at Astana with Spain’s Tour de France champion Alberto Contador or opt to join Bruyneel, who had tempted him away from Euskaltel at the end of 2008.
"From a sporting point of view, I believe this is the best option for me. When I made the change from Euskaltel to Astana I signed with the team run by Johan Bruyneel. Now, that entire group has gone to this new team, and that was why my first option has always been RadioShack. Johan Bruyneel has always had confidence and shown interest in me," Zubeldia said.
The Basque rider added that his good impression of the Belgian team boss had only grown after spending this season riding for him. "I’ve always admired Johan Bruyneel, he’s always managed great teams. After spending a season working with him I have seen that the preconceived image I had of him was spot on. He’s got a great capacity for management and fantastic insight into races, amongst many other positive things," said Zubeldia.
Understanding that his decision could have negative repercussions in Spain, Zubeldia attempted to play down any impression that he had opted for Lance Armstrong over Alberto Contador in his move to RadioShack. "I’m aware that my decision won’t be welcomed by everyone, but I have to look for the best option for me," he said. "I know that some people will try to involve me in the rivalry that exists between Alberto and Lance, but I can only reiterate that I am doing what is best for me."
The loss of Zubeldia is likely to be keenly felt by Astana. He was one of the team’s key domestiques in the mountains at the Tour de France, where he finished 27th overall. He then went on to lead the team at the Vuelta and finished 14th, having raced almost without a break since the end of February.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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