Even though it was expected, the news is stil a bombshell: 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador?s squad, Astana, have been excluded from all ASO-organised races, including the Tour de France.
This means that not only Contador, but also German Andreas Kloden, twice a runner-up in the Tour, as well as the race?s most successful manager – Johan Bruyneel, with eight Tour victories in his palmares – cannot take part in the 2008 event.
?ASO have decided not to invite Astana to the races in which they will organise in 2008, given the damage this team has caused to the Tour and cycling in general in 2006 and 2007,? a brief communique said on the Tour?s website.
The communique holds out a ray of hope for Astana, but only from 2009 onwards, saying that given the team has changed again, ASO ?will keep a close eye on Astana?s efforts to have a 2008 season free from [doping] affairs or suspicions, and they may be re-admitted in the future.?
For Alberto Contador, the news means he will have to concentrate on the one major stage race which is still willing to admit his team, the Tour of Spain. As revealed in Thursday?s Cycling Weekly, race boss Victor Cordero says that he ?considers the team have served their time? – by being excluded from the 2007 Vuelta.
There are – despite the rumours to the contrary – no other surprises on the line-up for Paris-Nice, confirmed on Wednesday. All the other ProTour teams, including Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish’s Team High Road, Credit Agricole and Bouygues – excluded, like Astana from the Giro – are present.
Three Pro Continental squads, David Millar?s Slipstream team, Skil-Shimano from Holland and French team Agritubel, are all present. It is strongly believed that give or take one or two teams, this will be the same line-up for the Tour de France.
The news is also another blow against the UCI?s ProTour, given that the UCI had said that all 18 ProTour teams should be admitted to the Tour de France. This does not now seem at all likely.
In other, rather less dramatic race news, a communique from the UCI has revealed on Wednesday that the Eindhoven team time trial in June will not take place this year. It is unlikely to have the same impact as the news that for the first time in the Tour?s modern history, the previous year?s Tour winner is still not permitted to take part despite not having failed a drug test.
Tour 2007 winner Alberto Contador and his Astana squad will not be invited to the 2008 event. Photos: Offside/Presse Sports