Tour de France stage 16 to Bourg Saint Maurice was a quiet day in the saddle for the Astana team but the squad was in the news for several other reasons.
As the riders climbed through the Alps, the Astana team truck was stopped at the Swiss border and searched for three hours. Customs officers searched every rider’s suitcase but nothing suspicious was found according to reports.
Before the start in Martigny, team manager Johan Bruyneel also admitted that he will not be in charge at Astana in 2010.
The Astana team is expected to go into meltdown after the Tour de France and split into two teams.
Lance Armstrong is expected to form his own team, with Bruyneel managing it. Armstrong has been looking for a major sponsor for several months and after Tuesday’s stage he posted this message on his twitter feed. “Making a very cool announcement on Thursday re: a new American partner for our team in 2010 (and beyond). Stay tuned!”
Astana will continue as a major team, with Alberto Contador touted as the leader, alongside Alexandre Vinokourov, who’s ban for blood doping ends on July 24.
Bruyneel wasn’t happy with the way Vinokourov had announced his comeback. “Vinokourov? We’d planned a meeting to talk about his future, but the day before he held a press conference in our hotel. That was unacceptable,” said the Belgian.
French directeur sportif Alain Gallopin is set to stay with Astana.
Just who will ride for Armstrong’s new team is unclear. Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner are certainties and there are also rumours that George Hincapie may quit Columbia for one last season with Armstrong.
Armstrong has already admitted he will probably ride the Tour de France one last time in 2010 and is digging deep to finish on the podium this year.
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