By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2004
World road champion Igor Astarloa appears set to leave the embattled Cofidis team if he cannot compete in two one-day classics next week.
Cofidis president Francois Migraine announced last Friday that France’s top team would be suspended from all racing while an investigation into alleged doping among several former and current riders is held.
The decision meant that another of the team’s reigning champions, Britain’s David Millar – who won the time trial title in Canada – was prevented from competing in his World Cup track debut at Manchester on Saturday. Millar has expressed support for the decision.
Astarloa, who was recruited from the Saeco team only weeks before he lifted the world title in Hamilton, Ontario, last October, had also been supportive of Migraine’s stance. However, after less than a week, the 28-year-old’s patience seems to have run out.
Next week’s Fleche-Wallonne classic, in which he is the reigning champion, and the World Cup’s fifth race – the Liege-Bastogne-Liege – were major objectives of his season and it appears that Cofidis will not return to the peloton until May at the earliest.
“On Monday we plan to speak to (Cofidis manager) Alain Bondue,” Astarloa’s agent Paolo Zanni told Spain’s AS newspaper.
“If he can’t guarantee that Igor can race Fleche Wallonne or the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, we’ll consider leaving. There are several teams interested and the transfer could go through in a day.”
According to AS, Saeco, Quick Step and Fasso Bortolo are the teams closely monitoring the situation of the talented Spaniard.
On Wednesday Cofidis manager Bondue said he would not stop Astarloa from leaving if he wanted.
“If he wants to join another team we’ll let him go,” said Bondue. “He’s the reigning world champion, he’s just arrived in the team and we don’t want him to pay the consequences for what’s happened in the past here.”
Bondue said that hopes of a return to competition in May would be ideal, but are perhaps unrealistic.
“The start of May is the rumor going around. But that would be an ideal scenario,” said Bondue. “I prefer to be pragmatic: we have to take our time and do things right. I have to propose to the sponsor (Cofidis) measures which will guarantee that there are no doubts as regards to doping within our team.”
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