Whether you were ever a US Postal/Discovery fan or not, former manager Johan Bruyneel has certainly been punished for having taken over the reins at Kazakh-backed ProTour team Astana this year.
With the Tour of Spain organisers choosing to invite the Astana squad to their event – persuaded, no doubt, by the promise of 2007 Tour de France champ Alberto Contador bringing a much-needed star element to their event – the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France organisers had remained staunchly against their participation. ASO were the most vociferous, saying they didn’t want to risk a repeat of the team shaming their July extravaganza, as it had done with team leader Alexandre Vinokourov last year, while the Giro had muttered something about the team disrespecting their event by originally not wanting to send a strong team, promptly inviting the world-famous NGC team instead.
But the weekend turnaround from Giro boss Angelo Zomegnan (bye-bye NGC), which left Contador and Levi Leipheimer scrabbling to get some semblance of form with less than a week until the off, left us wondering whether the remaining pillar of the grand-tour triumvirate might change its mind, too.
Straight on the bat-phone to Tour boss Christian Prudhomme, and the big man gave Procycling this exclusive response: “Our position is not going to change.”
Hmm – well, I guess we all knew that before we even asked, really, didn’t we? But then came the qualifier. “On the other hand, if everything goes well [for Astana] this year, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be on the races that we organise next season.”
Well there’s an invitation to behave yourself until then, if ever there was one.