Bruyneel looks forward to 2009 Tour de France

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Paul Bartlett


Astana Team director Johan Bruyneel confirmed Sept. 30 that his team would compete in next year’s Tour de France.

“Astana Cycling Team will be in the Tour 2009. There’s no doubt about it. Already a few months ago, all ProTour Teams signed an agreement with the organiser ASO [Amaury Sports Organisation].”

In 2008, Astana was banned from the tour because of past doping issues. The "damage caused by this team to the Tour de France and cycling in general, both in 2006 and 2007," led to their exclusion, organisers said.

“We were excluded in 2008, but ASO told us that that would be for only one season. The only thing they can do is to forbid a rider [not a whole team] to participate.”

Astana still had a successful 2008. Team leader, Alberto Contador, added this year’s Vuelta a Espana to his Giro d’Italia and 2007 Tour de France titles.

In late September it was announced Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, will come out of retirement and ride for Astana. Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, decided to return to cycling to raise awareness about the disease.

Armstrong will be reunited with Bruyneel, who worked with the rider up to his retirement in 2005.

“Lance and I have a unique relationship,” said Bruyneel. “It’s like a reunion with old schoolmates, with one big difference: we all (except me) still have the same competition weight. I can guarantee you Lance will be ready to perform very well.”

Bruyneel had no doubts that Armstrong’s comeback would be a successful one. “Personally, I think he will surprise the world.”

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