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With Alejandro Valverde already set for the Vuelta and Ivan Basso rumoured to be heading the same way at the end of August, the Spanish race is now considering reaping a previously unthinkable triple whammy with the participation of Alexandre Vinokourov. The race's commercial director, Manuel Diaz, recently announced they intend to impose the same ethical rules that have governed this year's Tour which led to Astana being excluded from that race, but Diaz has given Astana a glimmer of hope by stating the chances of the team participating are "very possible" and adding that "the new sponsor was very interested in the Vuelta".
"Astana left the Tour because it did not have sufficient riders to participate, but not for another reason," Diaz told the Spanish press yesterday. The team were excluded from the Tour because five of their nine riders were implicated in the Operacion Puerto inquiry, leaving them with too few riders to compete in the race.
- The relationship between Frank Vandenbroucke and the Unibet.com team seems to be heading for impending divorce. Speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws, team manager Koen Terryn said of Vandenbroucke: "I don't want him in my team any more. I've shown a lot of patience but have had no worthwhile results to show for this indulgence. I can count the days he has raced on the fingers of two hands. We want to get into the ProTour, but with riders like VDB we will lose our credibility as a cycling team."
- There's better news, though, of another Belgian rider, Cofidis's Rik Verbrugghe, who was last since being carefully lifted out of a bramble-filled ditch with a broken femur on the road into Gap on Sunday. After a three-hour operation to pin and reset his broken leg, Verbrugghe spoke to La Dernire Heure about his horror crash, and confirmed that his operation "went very well. I received a total guarantee that I will return to full fitness".
Verbrugghe, who has already received news that his contract with Cofidis will run through until 2008, continued: "I am not planning on finishing my career with an accident like that. Our team manager, Eric Boyer, came to tell me that I would be getting another year on my contract because they were pleased with my season, and that extension is a good mark of their confidence. It gives me more morale. You have to have the ability to leave things like this behind you."
Looking back at his accident, Verbrugghe denied he was travelling too fast. "There was a hole in the road and when I hit it it took me towards the outside of the bend. I saw the guardrail coming towards me, slid along it for a bit, then hit the vertical support post. As I went under the barrier I felt the impact with the post and knew right away my leg was broken. Then I fell into a bush full of thorns and started wondering how on earth I was going to get out of there."
Verbrugghe added his surgeon had told him he won't be able to stand on his leg for at least 45 days and will then require a similar amount of rehabilitation time.
- Ag2r sprinter Tomas Vaitkus, winner of a stage of the Giro in May, is to join Discovery Channel next season.
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