Alberto Contador admits that his Astana squad might not be the strongest, but at least he’s not losing sleep over whom it will be backing come July.
Eight of last year’s nine starters from Astana jettisoned to RadioShack at the end of last season, leaving Contador alone to rebuild the team in time for July’s Tour de France.
The team has announced its Tour nine, a squad that is loaded with Contador loyalists and one Alexander Vinokourov. Whether that’s good enough to win Contador a third Tour title in four years remains to be seen, but Contador will be pleased with what Astana is bringing to Rotterdam for the July 3 start.
Joining Contador are four other Spaniards: longtime confidante Benjamin Noval, who was left off last year’s Astana Tour team; training partner Jesus Hernández; David de la Fuente; and recent Dauphiné stage-winner Dani Navarro.
Not making the team’s Tour nine is 2006 Tour champion Oscar Pereiro, who signed on with Astana after nearly retiring last fall. Pereiro said he was motivated to ride to help Contador win a third title, but he didn’t make the cut.
Also coming back to the Tour for the first time since his blood-doping ban will be Vinokourov, winner of this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Kazakh vows to work for Contador, but will provide the team with a second option in case something happens to the Spanish leader. Vinokourov’s unpredictable attacking style could keep Contador’s rivals on their collective toes.
Astana for Tour de France: Alberto Contador (Spa); Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz); David de la Fuente (Spa); Andrey Grivko (Ukr); Jesus Hernández (Spa); Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz); Dani Navarro (Spa); Benjamin Noval (Spa); Paolo Tiralongo (Ita)