Bruyneel says it’s time to quit Astana
July 21. AFP. BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE, France
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel announced he is set to quit the Kazakhstan-backed outfit.
“It’s time to turn a page in my career,” Bruyneel told Flemish language channel VRT just before the 16th stage in Martigny, Switzerland.
With current yellow-jersey holder Alberto Contador and seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong in his team, Bruyneel is in charge of arguably the strongest outfit on the Tour, but he insisted the team has no future.
Internal trouble has been brewing since Monaco when banned rider Alexandre Vinokourov, who the Astana team was created around, gave a press conference saying either he or Bruyneel must quit the team after the Kazakh’s doping suspension ends on July 24.
“We still had to talk about his possible return, but he gave a press conference in Monaco the day before the race started in our team hotel,” said Bruyneel.
“Then some whispers from the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation reached my ears and things have started to become very clear for me. Astana is finished!”
Rumours at the Tour de France suggest Bruyneel may launch a new team with Armstrong as his leader.
Yellow-jersey holder Contador, who finished Tuesday’s stage with a 1:37 minute lead over second-placed Armstrong, said he will only consider his future once he reaches Paris.
The Spanish media reported last week Spain’s two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso is planning to create a cycling team headed by his compatriot Contador, the 2007 Tour de France winner.
“I won’t say anything at the moment,” said Contador.
“I can only concentrate on the race and there are still five days to go.
“Only when I arrive in Paris will I think of my future and that of the team.”
Vinokourov and his Astana team were forced out of the 2007 Tour when he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after winning the 13th stage. Bruyneel did not manage the team at that time.
Vinokourov retired last year, then said he planned to race again.
The Kazakhstan cycling federation banned Vinokourov for only one year, but cycling’s governing body the UCI appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who lengthened his ban to two years which runs out on Friday.