Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has been warned he may have to fight if he is to be granted his wish of leaving top cycling team Astana.
The two-time yellow jersey winner is reported to be poring over offers from rival teams following a tumultuous Tour in which much of the focus was on his in-team rivalry with Lance Armstrong.
Seven-time champion Armstrong has since announced he will ride next year for Team RadioShack, but Contador's wish to start anew could be stymied by the fact he still has a year left on his contract.
Astana said they want the 26-year-old Spanish ace, who appears on the verge of greatness having also won the Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain, to honour their deal until the end of 2010.
"In order to clarify some misunderstandings reported in the media, the Astana Cycling Team Management reconfirms that 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is expected to ride for Team Astana in 2010," said a statement.
Astana were created by and for disgraced Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, who was thrown out of the 2007 Tour de France for blood doping. Having recently returned to competition Vinokourov wants to race for Astana again and has thrown his weight behind keeping Contador in the team.
A spokesman for the Kazakh-sponsored outfit, Rinus Wagtmans, said the team intended to remain within the peloton until 2013. And he claimed that Contador, who admitted after the Tour that Armstrong's arrival last year had left to an uncomfortable cohabitation, would this time be given the team's full support.
"It is clear that Alberto Contador will be our absolute leader of the Team for next season," said Wagtmans.
"We are surprised to read that many other teams have reportedly shown their intention to engage our Tour winner when he remains under contract. A transfer is not negotiable and we will honour the signed contract. We look forward to more victories from Alberto in 2010."
Team manager Johan Bruyneel, who led Armstrong to his seven Tour wins and was in charge of Contador for both his victories, is expected to follow Armstrong to RadioShack.
© AFP 2009...