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By Andrew Hood
Riders and managers reacted with resignation, disbelief and even anger at the news that Astana and reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador won’t be allowed to start the Tour and other races organized by ASO.
The general feeling prior to the final stage of the Mallorca Challenge in Spain was overwhelmingly in support of favorite son Contador; Spanish newspapers blasted the controversial decision, with editorials across the board demonizing ASO’s decision.
Here’s a sampling of the reaction from key riders in the Mallorca peloton:
Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d’Epargne
“The winner of the Tour should be allowed to defend his title. You feel defenseless, to not be able to race in the Tour. We all lose. It’s another hard blow for cycling. No one understands it.”
Nick Nuyens, Cofidis
“It’s unfair. It’s difficult to reason because Contador wasn’t even on Astana last year. It’s one thing if they could have proven that there was something organized with doping on the team. There seems to be always someone who will try to cheat, but it’s not fair to punish the entire team. This is cycling we’re living now. The riders are stuck in the middle like always. We’re just small actors in a big movie. We have no power.”
Dirk Demol, QuickStep sport director
“Everyone is surprised. The Tour de France without the last winner is a surprise. It’s their decision and there’s not much they can do. They did do a big effort to change what they are, with new riders, new staff; the only thing that remains is the name of the sponsor. They should have been told earlier. It’s a big disappointment for riders like Levi, Contador and Kloden.”
Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner
“It’s the decision of ASO. They have their opinions. It’s their race. They have problems with specific riders, but it’s not fair that the entire team has to pay the price. A rider like Kloden has never appeared on any lists. It’s the new way in cycling now. The races pick who they want. That’s what we have to live with.”
Maarten Den Bakker, Skil-Shimano
“I can understand a little bit the concerns from both sides. There were some problems with the team, but it appears they’ve made some big changes. It’s not good for cycling that a big sponsor like Astana is kept out of the Tour. The sport needs strong sponsors, but new ones might be scared away because of these problems. It would have been best if the team could race in the Tour.”
Joaquín Rodriguez, Caisse d’Epargne, Spanish national champion
“It’s all bullshit. We’re going to end up with small teams in the Tour and big teams in smaller races. It’s like if Marion Jones tests positive and they prevent America from competing in the Olympics. After Astana, where does it go? Next they will say no to Rabobank, to High Road? Where does it end?”