By Agence France Presse
The Astana team said it intends to enforce its current contract with two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and promises the Spaniard will be the unquestioned leader of the team next season.
The two-time yellow jersey winner is reported to be reviewing offers from rival teams following a tumultuous three-week race in which much of the focus was on his rivalry with teammate Lance Armstrong.
Seven-time champion Armstrong has since announced he will ride next year for Team RadioShack, but Contador’s wish to start anew could be stymied by the fact he still has a year left on his contract.
An Astana spokesman said on Saturday that the team expects the 26-year-old winner of all three of cycling’s grand tours to honor his contract through the end of 2010.
“In order to clarify some misunderstandings reported in the media, the Astana Cycling Team Management reconfirms that 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is expected to ride for Team Astana in 2010,” said a statement.
Astana was formed in 2006 by and for Kazakh cyclist Alexander Vinokourov. Vinokourov was subsequently thrown out of the 2007 Tour for blood doping. Having recently returned to competition, Vinokourov wants to race for Astana again and has thrown his weight behind keeping Contador in the team.
A spokesman for the Kazakh-sponsored outfit, Rinus Wagtmans, said the team intended to remain within the peloton until 2013. Its current ProTour license expires at the end of the 2010 season.
Wagtmans claimed that Contador, who admitted after the Tour that Armstrong’s arrival last year caused a great deal of tension, would be given the team’s full support.
“It is clear that Alberto Contador will be our absolute leader of the Team for next season,” said Wagtmans.
“We are surprised to read that many other teams have reportedly shown their intention to engage our Tour winner when he remains under contract. A transfer is not negotiable and we will honor the signed contract. We look forward to more victories from Alberto in 2010.”
Team manager Johan Bruyneel, who led Armstrong to his seven Tour wins and was in charge of Contador for both his victories, is expected to follow Armstrong to RadioShack.