Contador to Specialized, but with which team?
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Contador to Specialized, but with which team?

by Ben Atkins at 12:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Rumours that Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was to strike a deal with US bike manufacturer Specialized now appear to be true. Dutch website Wielerland.nl and Italian sports paper la Gazzetta dello Sport both reported the deal yesterday, with la Gazzetta claiming that a one-year contract – with an option to exptend – had been signed at Specialized’s European headquarters in Madrid on Friday. The deal was reported to be worth €700,000 (~$1,000,000) to the Spaniard. This sum is similar to that paid by some bike manufacturers to sponsor entire teams.

Wielerland.nl also claims that the Kazakh-sponsored Astana team, to which Contador is currently contracted, has also agreed a one-year deal with Specialized, but this has yet to be confirmed. Astana is certainly on the hunt for a new bike sponsor as Trek, on which the team has ridden for the past two seasons, has departed along with riders such as Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, as well as Director Sportif Johan Bruyneel.

It would be theoretically possible, and within the rules, for Contador to ride a different bike to the rest of his team, but fairly unlikely.

A deal with between Specialized and Astana would mean that the US company would be bike sponsor to three ProTour teams: Astana, Quick Step, and Saxo Bank. The latter is the team of this year’s Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck, who Contador has identified as his biggest rival for the 2010 race. With Specialized sponsoring both riders it would be very confident of picking up its first ever overall win in la Grande Boucle.

With Contador still to officially announce whether or not he will be staying with his current Astana team, there is continued speculation as to where he will be riding for 2010. The deal with Specialized presents an obvious link to Quick Step, but according to legend Eddy Merckx in an interview with Belgian website wielermagazine.com, the Spaniard has penned a two-year deal with Astana. La Gazzetta further claims that Contador is also planning to have his good friend Ivan Basso – currently at Liquigas – to join him on the team in 2011. All of this also depends on the decision from the ProTour Council this week on whether to award Astana a licence for 2010 or not.

Merckx’s claim that a top team will be riding his bikes in 2010 – despite ending negotiations with Astana – adds to the speculation that Specialized may negotiate its way out of its contract with the Belgian Quick Step team. This was quickly denied by the team’s communication manager Alessandro Tegner last week, but the prospect of the current batch of Belgian stars riding the bikes of the ultimate Belgian legend is a tantalising one.

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