The Kazakhstan cycling federation today claimed that Lance Armstrong was set to join the Astana team for 2009 in a bid to win his eighth Tour de France.

The Deputy Chief of the federation, Nikolai Proskurin told the Associated Press that Armstrong would ride for Astana for free next year, and take part in five races including the Tour de France.

Armstrong is set to make an announcement today in New York at 5pm British time, but seems to have been scooped by his new team.

Joining Astana makes perfect sense from a racing point of view as it re-unites Armstrong with Johan Bruyneel, the man who was behind the wheel of the team car for each of the American’s seven Tour wins.

The announcement does however raise a question mark over the future of Alberto Contador. The 2007 Tour winner has said he will not ride for Armstrong at the 2009 Tour and will look for other options if this is forced on him.

?I?ve earned the right to be the leader of a team without having to fight for my place,? Contador said in AS newspaper. ?And with Armstrong, some difficult situations could arise in which the team would put him first and that would hurt me.?

The inter-team rivalry will stretch Bruyneel’s loyalty to the limit should, next July, he be forced in to making a tactical decision that favours one rider over the other.

Armstrong joining Astana also begs the question of just how he’s going to promote his cancer charity. Answers to these questions should come from today’s press conference in New York and tomorrow at Interbike in Las Vegas.

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