2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador?s signing for Astana in 2008 is no longer the total certainty it appeared to be a few weeks back.
Contador was widely expected to be heading for the new-version Astana team along with his current team manager, Johan Bruyneel, when Discovery Channel fold at the end of the year.
But French media quoted Contador?s manager, Tony Rominger on Tuesday as saying that the Spaniard was worried that signing for Astana ?might damage his image.?
?He?s currently looking at other possibilities.? Rominger said, before adding rather poetically that ?Right now he is closer to other horizons than he is to Kazakhstan.?
Just what these ?horizons? are is the subject of much speculation. Previously Contador had been linked to a possible offer from Rabobank – which the team did not confirm – and there have also been strong rumours that Caisse D?Epargne could be interested in signing the 24-year-old Tour winner.
Contador?s apparent hesitation clashes with Bruyneel?s claims that the Spaniard would be signing for the new-version Astana, something that Contador himself said as little as a fortnight ago was ?likely.?
Bruyneel plans to make a clean sweep of Astana?s management, retaining only Kazakh directeur sportif Alexandre Schefer, in a bid to give the team more credibility. But now the French press quote Rominger – a close friend of Astana’s 2007 team manager, Marc Biver – as saying Contador is still unsure of his new squad for 2008.
Perhaps equally significantly, Contador was missing from the Kazakh Cycling Federation press release confirming Bruyneel?s appointment as manager of a new version of Astana last week, even though Contador had said he wanted to remain with Bruyneel as his manager next year. As a result, with less than 10 days to go before the 2008 Tour presentation, the 2007 Tour winner is still team-less for next season.