Astarloa out for two months as Barloworld sign Cardenas, Boonen checks out Het Volk route, AntequeraPIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Igor Astarloa's operation on his fractured left arm is reported to have been a success, although the Spaniard is set for a longer absence from competition than was initially thought. He is now expected to be back in training within a month, but is unlikely to race again until the end of April. Perhaps partly to compensate for the temporary loss of 2003 world champion Astarloa, Barloworld have confirmed the signing of Colombian climber Felix Cardenas, winner of the mountains title at the last two Vueltas. Cardenas spent the last two seasons with the Orbitel-Cafs Baqu team. "I'm very happy with the move because I feel that I can still achieve some great things and I feel glad to be part of one of the greatest cycling teams in the world," said Cardenas. Former ONCE and Kelme rider Ivan Parra, who was with Cardenas last year at Cafs Baqu, has been confirmed as signing for the Colombian Orbitel team. - Although this weekend's Het Volk is not part of the ProTour, there appears to be little drop in interest in the opening event of the Belgian Classics season. On Tuesday the northern-based members of the Quick Step team ventured out for a training expedition on the route in spite of freezing and snowy conditions that are already threatening a repeat of last year's cancellation due to adverse weather. "The race is and remains very important for my team and for me in spite of it not being in the ProTour," said Quick Step sprinter Tom Boonen after the training session. "The opening weekend in your own country is always something special. The media coverage is important, especially after a race like the Tour of Qatar, and that motivates you even more." Boonen believes Quick Step have no less than five candidates for overall victory, naming himself alongside Nick Nuyens, Servais Knaven, Kevin Hulsmans and Paolo Bettini. He also picked out Davitamon-Lotto, T-Mobile and Discovery Channel as Quick Step's main rivals for the title. Quick Step directeur sportif Rik van Slijcke said that as well as something of a publicity stunt, his team's collective ride was important from a tactical point of view as well because the route of Het Volk has changed so much. Getting a taste of the bad weather, he felt, was also important after several days of racing and training in southern Europe. In the end the 10-strong Quick Step group completed most of the Het Volk route during a six-hour ride, missing just the Grammont climb and the final run-in to Lokeren. - Spanish national road coach Paco Antequera's limbo existence continues two months after he backed the losing candidate in the elections for the presidency of the Spanish federation. Although the most successful national coach in Spain's history and still paid a sizeable salary by the federation, Antequera does not know whether he will continue in the post or, as has been indicated by new president Fulgencio Sanchez, replaced. Speaking to El Diario Vasco at the Tour of Valencia, Antequera explained "up to now our talks have gone nowhere. My lawyer has spoken with their lawyer, but 10 days have passed since then and we've heard nothing." In fact, Antequera has heard nothing at all directly from anyone at the federation since he read in the press at the end of last year that he was set to be replaced.