By Andrew Hood
It looks like Johan Bruyneel’s planned retirement could be a short one.
The Belgian sport director of Discovery Channel is in talks with the troubled Astana team to take over as general manager just weeks after announcing he would retire from cycling at the end of the 2007 season.
Bruyneel confirmed he’s been contacted by officials from the Astana team to join the Kazakhstan-sponsored squad for the 2008 season and beyond.
“It’s true I’ve had conversations with them but I’ve just returned from vacations and I haven’t had a chance to fully consider it,” Bruyneel told journalists ahead of Saturday’s start of the Vuelta.
A message posted by Discovery Channel press officer PJ Rabice on thepaceline.com also confirmed contacts between Bruyneel and Astana.
“In a brief phone conversation with Johan Bruyneel he confirmed to me that he was in fact contacted by the Astana Team with an offer to manage the Team beginning in 2008,” the statement read. “However, he had just returned from holiday and knew too little about the offer at this time to say whether it is a consideration.”
Bruyneel, who won eight of the past nine Tours de France as a sport director, announced he would retire at the end of the 2007 season after efforts to find a new sponsor to pick up the team’s budget ended without success.
There were also unconfirmed reports that recently crowned Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and others from the soon-to-be disbanded Discovery Channel team could join Astana.
Sources close to Contador said the rider is considering several offers from teams and said he likely won’t make any announcements until after racing in the Tour of Missouri later this month in the United States.
Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro will stay with Caisse d’Epargne for the next two seasons after penning a contract extension to stay with the team through the end of the 2009 season.
Pereiro, second overall in the 2006 Tour de France, was mulling an offer from hometown team Karpin-Galicia but decided to stay with the ProTour team.
Gerolsteiner to reveal future
The future of the German ProTour team Gerolsteiner will be revealed Tuesday in a scheduled press conference with representatives with the title sponsor.
The team’s contract with the German water bottler ends at the end of the 2008 season, but officials are said to be reconsidering the future of the team following a string of high-profile doping scandals in Germany.
None of the Gerolsteiner riders have been implicated, but the otherwise negative climate surrounding the sport in German has been felt by the sponsor. Team manager Hans-Michael Holzcer told VeloNews that the sponsor was polling fans and customers about the validity of the sponsorship.
The team is currently racing at the Vuelta with a strong squad that includes Davide Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher.