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Word coming from the Giro d'Italia is that it is all but a done deal that Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel will have their own professional cycling team. Details are still a bit in the speculative stage, but it appears that an official announcement will be made on or about June 1st, the day after the conclusion of the Giro and also the day after the UCI's deadline for Team Astana to get it's financial situation in order has come and gone.

 

More than likely, the bulk of the team will come from the current roster of the Astana squad. Speculating on the exact roster, the new team should include Lance, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, Yaraslov Popovych, Chechu Runiera, Daniel Noval, Jani Brajkovic, and a most of the remaining supporting characters (Gregory Rast, Steve Morabito, etc.)

 

One rider who is rumoured to not be part of the new team is Alberto Contador. He has been linked to Caisse d'Epargne, the team of Alejandro Valverde whose own participation in the Tour de France has been put in doubt by a recent two-year ban in Italy for his participation in Opercion Puerto. It is not clear if Contador's good friend and training partner, Jesus Jernandez, will follow him to Caisse. Obviously, if Contador does not come to the squad, all questions about who will lead the team at the Tour de France become moot!

 

Another rider whose future is uncertain is Andreas Kloden who has recently been linked to blood doping during the 2006 Tour and will almost certainly face some sort of disciplinary action.  Also, it is unclear if any of the Kazhak riders currently on the team will be retained.

 

Rumour has it that Bruyneel and Armstrong have already produced the team kit with their new sponsors and will be unveiling it at the public announcement in the days after the finish of the Giro.  Look for Armstrong to be wearing his new team colors as he trains with Leipheimer and Horner at his home in Aspen between the Giro and the Tour.

 

We will have to wait and see how this all shakes out, but suffice it to say, the excitement in pro cycling won't go into hiatus between the Giro and the Tour.

 

Bruce

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