Haimar Zubeldia Agirre, a three-time Top 10 Tour de France finisher, has signed a two-year agreement with Johan Bruyneel’s Astana Cycling Team. Starting in January 2009, the Spanish cyclist will join top Grand Tour riders Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden.
Zubeldia is the 100th rider to race for Bruyneel since the ex-Belgian pro began managing a team in 1999.
Zubeldia, 31, has spent his entire professional career racing for Euskaltel-Euskadi. In addition to his three top ten placings in the Tour de France (5th in 2003 and 2007, 8th in 2006), Zubeldia finished tenth in the Vuelta a Espana (2000), second in the Dauphiné Libéré (2000) and won the Euskal Bizikleta (2000).
“Haimar is a perfect addition for our team. He’s a good time-trialist, can climb very well and will be an excellent all-around teammate in the Grand Tours. A rider, like Haimar, who has finished in the top ten in numerous Grand Tours also has the ability to win some stages and races. He may be a veteran, but I think he has an exciting two years ahead of him with Team Astana.”
The transfer to Team Astana is a dream for Haimar Zubeldia. “The Astana Team is the best stage racing team in the world,” he said. “I’ve always admired Johan Bruyneel’s teams and to race for him and the best riders is a special honor. I am thankful for the past 11 years, but I’m also excited for the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
Bruyneel, who recently re-signed nine current Team Astana riders, is continuing to put together the roster for 2009, which includes (as of August 18, 2008):
Assan Bazayev, Jani Brajkovic, Alberto Contador, Chris Horner, Maxim Iglinskiy, Roman Kireyev, Andreas Klöden, Berik Kupeshov, Levi Leipheimer, Steve Morabito, Dmitriy Muravyev, Daniel Navarro, Benjamín Noval, Sérgio Paulinho, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär, Tomas Vaitkus, Andrey Zeits, and Haimar Zubeldia.