In Glory's Wake, Disappointment at Astana Cycling
In the space of a week, Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has gone from being a hero to villain in Kazakhstan. The star cyclist has left Team Astana for the rival Saxo Bank cycling team only a week after bringing the Tour title to Kazakhstan for the second year running. His new team officially unveiled Contador on August 3.The move is a blow for Astana, which is sponsored by Kazakhstan’s state asset holding company Samruk-Kazyna. The team believed it had met Contador's conditions to continue negotiations, only to receive a surprise rebuke from his press service on July 28. The Kazakhstan Cycling Federation general secretary, Valentin Rekhert, said Astana was a “little angry” with Contador's handling of the affair, especially after the team had offered him a greatly improved contract over several seasons.Astana may be down surprisingly soon after triumphing in cycling's biggest event. But the team is moving quickly to bolster its roster for the 2011 season and has opened talks with Denis Menchov, who finished third in this year's Tour de France. It is also pursuing David Arroyo, who was runner-up in this year’s Giro d'Italia, and the team has already signed promising young rider Robert Kiserlovski, who placed 10th in the same race.Kazakhstan's native Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished 16th in this year's Tour, remains with the team. And, in keeping with its long-term plans, Astana is looking to promote more young cyclists from Kazakhstan to the catty world of professional cycling.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.