Bruyneel: Contador can't leave Astana

Team manager says Spaniard is tied in for two years

Johan Bruyneel said yesterday that Alberto Contador cannot leave Astana, despite reports that the Spaniard may do so if Lance Armstrong takes his place as team leader next year.

"I have invested a lot of my time into Alberto's development and he will remain with this team for the next two years,” said the Astana manager in a team statement on Thursday.

“Actually, it's pretty simple – there's a contract and there are no options to leave."

Bruyneel expressed confidence in Armstrong’s will to succeed when he returns to the Astana to bid for his eighth Tour de France yellow jersey next summer, but warned that the American must show he’s worthy of the team's support if he is to be team leader during the three-week epic.

"I certainly don't have any doubts about Lance's motivation and dedication. These are intangibles I would never bet against," said Bruyneel, who managed the American for all seven of his Tour de France victories.

"The question remains if he can be at the same level or similar level after a few years away from the racing season. That's an answer no one has right now, but I do believe Lance will be competitive.

"I'm excited for his comeback, not only for what it adds to the team, but also to the sport. No other person has such an impact on the sport on a local and global level."

In the event that Contador and Armstrong manage to work in harmony, Bruyneel hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Armstrong being prepared to work for other team members, such as Contador.

"That's a question that Lance answered himself last week in Las Vegas – yes,” Bruyneel added.

"He knows that the decisions are made in the team car and he understands the philosophy – the same one we've always had – we work for the strongest rider.

"This is not the first time that big names have all been on the same team. It has worked out in the past and I'm confident for the same in 2009."

© AFP 2008

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