Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has taken a big step, although by no means the definitive one, towards staying with Astana in 2010.
In a press release issued on Thursday evening, it was revealed that the Spaniard has now agreed with Astana some crucial terms and conditions.
First and foremost is the ProTour licence and a new anti-doping program inside the team.
Contador says that he’s been impressed by the way new team manager Yvon Sanquer and sports director Giuseppe Martinelli have managed to turn around the squad, signing enough riders to make the team competitive for 2010.
Astana had lost a huge amount of firepower after Lance Armstrong, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer all left for new team Radio Shack. Astana team boss Johan Bruyneel and a large number of the top-level management from 2009 have also jumped ship.
But even if the line-up is now looking better thanks to Sanquer and Martinelli, the UCI still have to reach a definitive decision on the team’s ProTour licence. That may come as soon as Friday (November 20).
Should there be no ProTour licence, then all deals are off and Contador will presumably restart his negotiations with other teams. Quick Step, Garmin and Caisse d’Epargne are all said to be interested.
Contador’s press release also emphasises that the deal is for one more year, not four or five as the Kazakhs have been asking Contador to sign.
The agreement means the protracted speculation over Contador’s future, which started as long ago as August, is closer to being resolved. But it has yet to be settled once and for all.