It was only a matter of time before Trek was announced as Astana’s bicycle suppliers for the 2008 season.
Johan Bruyneel has made the trouble-strewn Kazakh-backed squad into a clone of the now defunct Discovery Channel team ? and now they’re riding the same bikes too.
The Belgian directeur sportif, who masterminded Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France titles and gratefully accepted the opportunity presented to Alberto Contador when Michael Rasmussen was sent home from this year’s race, initially retired from cycling after Tailwind Sports failed to find a replacement for Discovery Channel.
But when Astana came calling, Bruyneel answered. And he wasted no time in taking Contador and Levi Leipheimer with him ? to replace Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, who were sacked after failing dope tests.
The team will ride the 2008 Madone and the new Equinox TTX time trial bikes equipped with Bontrager components.
The first chance to ride the bikes will be at the training camp in Valencia later this week. All riders will receive their new bikes in time for the training camp in New Mexico after Christmas. Rumour has it the team’s new colours will not be pale blue, in a bid to distance itself from last year?s scandals.
The first race in the new Astana jersey will be the Tour Down Under, starting on January 22.
PICTURE: The Astana-branded Madone, complete with SRAM Red groupset.
|ARE YOU DISCO IN DISGUISE?|
Moving from an American-sponsored team to a Kazakh one. Did the stars of the movie American Flyers, race in vain?
|WHAT THEY SAID|
Trek president John Burke: ?What counts here is having the best riders on the best bikes. We have faith in Johan and we?re fired up about working with riders like Levi and Alberto.?
Trek?s road bike brand manager, Scott Daubert: ?When we learned that the Disco team was dissolving after the 2007 season, we knew that we wanted to stay in the pro peloton.
?But we didn?t want to jump into just any team. We wanted to make sure any future sponsorships would be the right move for Trek, even if that meant sitting out the 2008 season.
?When Johan approached us about a possible move to Astana, we realized that the opportunity to continue working with him was too good to pass up.
?It?s no secret we?ve enjoyed tremendous success with Johan over the past decade and he?s demonstrated time and again he?s one of the savviest tacticians in professional cycling.?
Johan Bruyneel, Astana general manager: ?It was not an easy decision to return to cycling after my recent announcement in August [that he was retiring]. However, in my new role with Astana I have found new challenges and I am excited to help the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation grow the sport in the country.
?Under my guidance the team will strictly abide by the UCI pro team code of ethics as well as any anti-doping measures agreed to by the UCI or the teams? union. And we will be subscribing to the anti-doping programme developed by Dr Rasmus Damsgaard, as used by Team CSC in 2007. The Damsgaard anti-doping system is currently the most effective and comprehensive programme available.
?I didn?t go to anyone else for bikes in 2008. Trek is the only company that can support our programme. I know this from the success we have had together.?
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador: ?Obviously Trek knows what it is doing. Look at the races they have won. I?m happy to be on a good bike.?
Levi Leipheimer: ?I?m very happy to have Trek as the sponsor. Trek was an integral part of my success in 2007. The new Madone has all the elements I look for in a high-performance bike. It?s light, stiff and looks awesome. Most importantly, I know I can trust its reliability.?