February 13, 2008 — Team Astana has not been invited to the 2008 Tour de France by race organizer, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), reported AFP today. ASO declared that Astana is also not invited to other ASO races such as Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Paris-Tours.
The TdF defending champion, Alberto Contador, presently rides for Astana. American Levi Leipheimer, who finished third in the 2007 TdF and German Andreas KlÃ¶den, another TdF favourite, also ride for Astana.
In a press release, ASO referred to the damage that Astana has caused to the TdF and to cycling in general in both 2006 and in 2007. As consolation, ASO said that it would follow the team’s progress this season with an eye to permitting it race in future TdFs. Astana notably withdrew from the 2007 TdF after former team captain Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping. Andrej Kashechkin and Matthias Kessler also failed doping tests recently. But the Kazakh-supported team is now under new management with Johan Bruyneel (formerly with Discovery Channel) as the general manager.
Now that Astana is also out of Paris-Nice race which runs from March 9-16, there will 17 elite teams competing along with three continental teams including Agritubel, Slipstream and Skil.
For more information click here and (in French) here.
There has been no official reaction yet from Bruyneel or Astana to this news, however, in a news posting Monday at ABC Online Australia, Contador discounted the exclusion as a possibility — click here.
UCI President Pat McQuaid reacted last week to rumours of this expulsion according to Reuters, as cited in Cycling Weekly, and saying there was no reason not to invite Astana — read more here.
Last week, RCS Sport, the organizer of the Giro d’Italia, excluded Astana and High Road (formerly T-Mobile) from its list of invited teams for the 2008 Giro. For more info on this story click here.