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By Andrew Hood
The rumor mill is kicking into overdrive that recently crowned Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre won’t be back at CSC-Saxo Bank for the 2009 season.
The flames were fanned even more Saturday when team owner Bjarne Riis was quoted in European newspapers as saying that riders like Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers “represent the future of our team.”
The 33-year-old Sastre is in the final year of his contract with Riis and has refused to comment on the contract rumors.
“Riis assured me that he didn’t so those things and I believe him,” Sastre told the Spanish daily AS. “In any case, I don’t want to speak about my future right now. It’s not the moment. I need to fully concentrate on the Vuelta a España. Isn’t that what I came here for?”
Officials at CSC-Saxo Bank told VeloNews that Riis and Sastre have agreed to talk at the end of the Vuelta to discuss Sastre’s future with the team, which will race as Team Saxo Bank in 2009.
Last week, Sastre was forced to make a public statement in an effort to tamp down a swirling rumor mill that had him leaving his longtime home at CSC, which he joined in 2002.
The Tour champion issued a statement reiterating that he’s under contract with CSC through the end of 2008, but refused to comment on his future.
“My only worry right now is focusing on the Vuelta, which, after the Tour, remains one of my biggest objectives of the season,” Sastre said on his web page. “I will not comment, nor deny or ratify any rumor about my future that is circulating in the media. When the time comes and once I make a firm decision about my future, I will report it fully for all the media in a press release.”
Some media reports linked Sastre to four teams, including a new Swiss-sponsored team backed by Cervélo (CSC’s former bike sponsors) and the newly bolstered Russian team Katoucha, which is boasting a budget of 30 million euros.