Contract talks between Alberto Contador and the Astana team appear to have stalled Wednesday after the three-time Tour winner rejected the team’s insistence that he quickly commit to an agreement for next season.
In a press release Contador said that while both sides were not far apart on key issues, he needed more time to weigh the offer “given the importance of this decision.”
“The team wanted to know right away whether or not (Contador) would ride for Astana next season,” the release noted. Contador said that the demand was unreasonable and he rejected the deadline.
After winning the 2009 Tour, Contador had very publicly said that he was looking for a way out the final year of his contract with Astana, but eventually reached an agreement with the team. Before this year’s Tour, Contador’s brother Fran, who acts as the rider’s agent, said that he was now quite happy at Astana and was likely to extend his contract for another two or three years.
Contador joined Astana in 2008 after moving to the team with manager Johan Bruyneel and several other members of the squad after the sponsorship of the old Discovery Channel team expired at the end of 2007, the year he won his first Tour.
Since riding for Astana, he’s won two Tours de France (2009 and ’10), and doubled up by winning the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España in 2008. Contador said that after winning the Tour this week, he wanted to “have time to calmly explore all possibilities” available to him.
Among those possibilities is the option to join Bjarne Riis’ team in 2011. Riis has recently announced that the team – currently sponsored by Saxo Bank, which is leaving at season’s end – has secured a new sponsor for the coming year. The Saxo team’s top GC contenders, brothers Frank and Andy Schleck, are expected to leave and join a new outfit being formed in their native Luxembourg.
Astana, meanwhile, has hedged its bets, making overtures to Russian Denis Menchov, who finished third in this year’s Tour. Menchov’s contract with Rabobank is set to expire at the end of the season and is also being recruited by the Russian Katusha team.