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By Andrew Hood
As reported yesterday on VeloNews.com, Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will ride next year with Astana under the leadership of Johan Bruyneel. The Spanish daily MARCA reported Wednesday that Contador will sign a two-year contract worth 1.5 million euros per season and bring Benjamín Noval and Sergio Paulinho with him. Other riders linked to Bruyneel’s move to Astana include Janez Brajkovic, Levi Leipheimer and Tomas Vaitkus. Leipheimer looks likely to join Bruyneel as the Belgian director is poised to take over the troubled Astana team as general manager as part of a three-year contract. No official announcements can be made until the Kazakh sponsors reach an accord with current team manager Marc Biver to clear the way for his departure from the team. Biver came under fire following a string of doping scandals on the team, including the blood doping positives of stars Alexandr Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin. Van Garderen to Rabobank continental team
Promising American climber Tejay Van Garderen is poised to sign a two-year contract with the Rabobank continental team for the 2008-09 seasons. The 19-year-old Montana-native won no less than 10 junior titles and claimed second this year in the U23 Tour of Granada in Spain and 20th at the Tour de l’Avenir. At 6-foot-1 and 148 pounds, Van Garderen is one of the top young prospects to come out of the U.S. program. Van Garderen talked with Rabobank team officials at last weekend’s world championships in Stuttgart and is expected to travel back to Holland later this month to finalize the paperwork. “He’s an impressive rider. He’s shown he has great skills in the climbs,” said Rabobank sport director Nico Verhoeven. “He has a good engine and an even better head. We’re excited to have him joining the team.”
Wiggins to T-Mobile
Britain’s Olympic track gold medalist Bradley Wiggins said on Wednesday his desire for gold in Beijing was part of the reason he will switch to German team T-Mobile for the 2008 season.
Wiggins, 27, won gold, silver and bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics and will switch from Cofidis to T-Mobile as one of ten newcomers to their roster for next season.
The Londoner, drafted for his experience and time-trial expertise, says his goal is to be in the best possible shape for Beijing.
With his sights firmly set on defending his individual pursuit title, 2008 is a huge year for the Brit.
“Next year could be my biggest ever,” he said on the T-Mobile website. “It could make the difference between having been a good cyclist and being a great one. If I retire now, I would remain a good cyclist who has won an Olympic gold medal but if I do what I’m capable of next year it could put me onto another level as an athlete and a sportsman.
“What attracted me to T-Mobile is that they are fully behind my Olympic planning,” he said on the team’s website. “For example, I won’t have to do next year’s Tour de France, which is on the backburner for now.
“It will be a big change, the first time I’ve gone to a multicultural, English-speaking team,” he continued. “I’ll be joining two other British guys, Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond, which is something to look forward to.”
Wiggins scored four wins on the road this season in what he describes as “probably my best ever on the tarmac”.
He also showed great form at this year’s Tour de France, where he backed up a solid prologue ride with fourth in the Albi time trial. But after Cofidis team-mate Christian Moreni failed a doping test, the entire team withdrew and Wiggins feels he has unfinished business in the Tour.
“It was massive progress and I’ll be back at the Tour in 2009 for sure,” he said. “Next year, however, I have to think about the Olympic Games.”
The other new T-Mobile riders are Norwegian time-trial champion Edvald Hagen, plus Americans John Devine, George Hincapie and Craig Lewis.
The team will have a multi-cultural look with Sweden’s Thomas Loevqvist, Germany’s Climbing Champion Tony Martin, Italian Morris Possoni, Spaniard Vicente Reynes and Belarus’ Kanstantsin Siutsou also siging up.
By Agence Presse France
Sánchez blocked by Boogerd
Spanish rider Samuel Sánchez was steaming at the finish line in Stuttgart on Sunday after missing out on what he knew could have been a world’s medal if he could have stayed with the winning move driven by Paolo Bettini. Sánchez led the way off the Herdweg climb in the decisive moments of the final lap on the Stuttgart circuit and was pinned on Bettini’s wheel up the final climb on the Birkenhofp climb halfway to the finish. Sánchez, one of the best descenders in the game, said he miscalculated and chose to ride behind aging Dutch rider Michael Boogerd when Bettini made his decisive attacks coming off the narrow descent. “I was okay on the climb when Bettini attacked, but what happened is that I got blocked on the downhill behind Boogerd. I got stuck behind him. Schleck and Schumacher pulled through, and then Evans and Kolobnev pulled through, then Boogerd pulls through and gets to the bridge that goes left and he brakes – joder! – then I lost all my momentum,” Sánchez told VeloNews. “I am there all alone, what I am going to do? It’s (a real shame) [ Sánchez actually used much stronger language – Editor], the race was going great, my legs felt great. It’s too bad. I was going great and I felt like I had a medal in my legs, but what are you going to do?” Vuelta rates behind Burkina Fasso
Times are tough for the Vuelta a España. This year’s top-heavy course, with all the decisive stages packed in the first 10 days, seemed to take the life out of the season’s final grand tour. TV ratings dipped below 1 million viewers per day for the first time. It seems fans all across Europe have lost interest, as well. According to a reader’s poll on Eurosport’s web page, the Vuelta doesn’t rate, at least among the mostly French readers of a recent online poll. A poll asked what race was most important behind the Tour de France, offering the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta and the Tour of Burkina Faso. Some 1,600 readers offered their opinion in the unscientific poll, placing the Giro second with 51 percent and Burkina Faso third with 28 percent. The Vuelta could only manage 21 percent.