Wednesday 13 February 2008 at 23h30

Paris-Nice 2008, the cycling race to be held between 9 and 16 March 2008, today announced a list of 20 cycling teams who will participate: 17 of the 18 UCI ProTour teams and 3 Pro Continental teams who recently got a wildcard for the ProTour races.

The missing team is Astana which will also be missing in the ... Tour de France!


Astana will not be invited to cycling races organised by A.S.O. in 2008

In a press release A.S.O., organisor of races like Paris-Nice, the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, la Flèche Wallonne, Paris-Tours, etc., announced that Astana will not be invited to any of its races in 2008.
A.S.O. explains this decision by saying that the team caused important damage to the Tour de France and to cycling in general in 2006 and 2007 (as a reminder: the Astana team was built on what remained of the Liberty Seguros-Würth team which was heavily involved in the Puerto / Fuentes case and other doping cases in 2006 and which also had several doping cases in 2007: Matthias Kessler (testosteron), Eddy Mazzoleni (mentioned in the Oil for drugs case), Alexandre Vinokourov (blood transfusion during the Tour de France 2007) and Andrey Kashechkin (blood transfusion detected at a out of competition doping test).

A.S.O. adds to this that the team damaged the organisors' faith since they had invited the team based on a promiss of a completely new team.

This is also the argument Astana uses again since early this year by saying that everything has changed in 2008: according to the team everything has changed, except for the name of the sponsor!

Astana, which was already excluded from the Giro d'Italia 2008, again repeats this in the press release the team published on its temporary website when they were informed of their exclusion.
In this press release the team says to be surprised and also in disbelief, but with dignity. Johan Bruyneel, the team's general manager, explains that Astana knew that - after its exclusion from the Giro - it was possible that A.S.O. would also exclude the team from participating in the Tour de France. He adds that the argument the Giro organisor used (the fact that Astana didn't see the Giro as an important race but just as a good training for the Tour de France) does not work for A.S.O. and than openly wonders whether the reason for the team's exclusion is not because the team is too strong!!

When Johan Bruyneel went to Astana he took the Tour de France 2007 winner, Alberto Contador and the Tour 2007's number 3 Levi Leipheimer with him. In addition to those two riders, the German Andreas Klöden - who finished second in the Tour twice: in 2004 and 2006 (when Floyd Landis was excluded) - also rides at this Luxembourg team with its sponsor from Kazakhstan.

The press release than indicates that one could think (based on the name) that A.S.O.'s decision is understandable but that this in fact not is the case since the only thing which is left from the Astana team 2007 (according to the team itself) is the name ... The team also refers to its important internal anti-doping programme (in which the team invests € 460.000 in 2008) and explains that UCI recognised these changes by awarding the team a ProTour licence in 2008. Finally they say that this actually might be the real reason behind the team's exclusion by A.S.O.: Astana would be the victim of the war between A.S.O. and UCI in 2008.

While his manager Alain Gallopin explains he has to completely change the programme of all riders Alberto Contador showed his disappointment when he learned about the exclusion at the finish of the 4th stage of the Tour of Mallorca: The last weeks I never thought that it would be possible not to do the Tour de France. It is my race, I dream of that race. Yesterday I even did special tests at the velodrome in Palma to improve my time trial capabilities. Now we are not invited. What can we do? ... I thank our sponsors who stand behind us, but I'm afraid other sponsors might leave because of what happened today. It is a sad day for cycling.

Alberto Contador's disappointment seems to be quite logical since he probably did not think that by following his manager from Discovery Channel to Astana at the end of last year, he would not be able to defend his titles as winner of Paris-Nice and winner of the Tour de France!

A.S.O. definitely did understand that Astana haas changed since the organisor finishes its press release by saying: Since the team has changed again A.S.O. will closely follow Astana's efforts to live a 2008 season without affairs or suspicion and could reconsider a possible candidacy for its future events. Astana will probably greatly regret that this won't happen in 2008 ...

With this decision the organisor uses its right to decide alone which teams will be allowed to participate in its races now they're no longer part of the ProTour. UCI however announced before they wanted to oblige A.S.O. to select at least all UCI ProTour teams for the Tour de France. Since Astana definitely won't be invited for the Tour this will not be the case and the relations between UCI and A.S.O. will probably not get any better after this decision

The team selection for the Tour de France 2008

In an interview with the French sports newspaper L'Équipe Christian Prudhomme (the Tour de France director) explains the reasons behind Astana's exclusion by saying that A.S.O. does not want to make the same mistake as in 2007. Indeed, in 2007 Astana already presented itself as a completely new team after the doping problems in 2006 and A.S.O. (just like the organisors of several other cycling races) invited the team based on that statement. After the new doping cases in 2007 and the same kind of promisses of the "new" Astana team in 2008, A.S.O. does not want to take the same decision and thus maybe make the same mistake again ...

The Tour de France 2008 team selection will be announced before the end of February.


The Paris-Nice 2008 team selection

The important news A.S.O. announced of course originally concerned the team selection for Paris-Nice 2008 ...

The race to the sun will this year be the playground for 17 of the 18 UCI ProTour teams (all but Astana) and 3 Pro Continental teams who earlier this week (together with 12 other teams) received a wildcard which allows them to participate in UCI ProTour races when invited. These 3 teams are the American team without a sponsor Slipstream Chipotle, the French team Agritubel (which already participated in many A.S.O. organised races before, including the Tour de France) and the Dutch team Skil-Shimano (which for example also participated in Paris-Tours in October 2007).

The teams which will participate in Paris-Nice 2008 represent 8 countries based on their official home base: Germany (3), Belgium (2), Denmark (1), Spain (3), United States (1), France (6), Italy (2) and The Netherlands (2).

The following teams will participate in Paris-Nice 2008 (* = UCI ProTour team):

- AG2R - La Mondiale (France) *
- Agritubel (France)
- Bouygues Telecom (France) *
- Caisse d'Epargne (Spain) *
- Cofidis (France) *
- Credit Agricole (France) *
- Team CSC (Denmark) *
- Euskaltel - Euskadi (Spain) *
- Française des Jeux (France) *
- Gerolsteiner (Germany) *
- High Road (Germany) *
- Lampre (Italy) *
- Liquigas (Italy) *
- Team Milram (Germany) *
- Quick.Step (Belgium) *
- Rabobank (The Netherlands) *
- Saunier Duval - Scott (Spain) *
- Silence - Lotto (Belgium) *
- Skil-Shimano (The Netherlands)
- Slipstream Chipotle (United States)

The Paris-Nice 2008 track and stages

This year Paris-Nice will not start in Paris as it was the case in the previous years but in Amilly.
A 4,6 km time trial in Amilly will be the race to the sun's prologue on Sunday 9 March. The next day the first stage will also start in Amilly and the riders will arrive in Nice on Sunday 16 March.
The official track of the other stages has not yet officially been announced! Although several rumours are going around on the Internet the official announcement will be made on 19 February.

door Thomas Vergouwen
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2 comments | 3992 views

this publication is published in: Paris-Nice | Tour de France | Tour de France 2008 | Doping


There are 2 comments!
  1. C'est bien dommage tout ça ! Mais après tout, à force d'enlever les plus forts, peut-être qu'un français finira sur le podium cette année à ce rythme-là !
    Malgré tout, le trouve cette décision regrettable pour l'intérêt de la course...

    | Martin | Wednesday 13 February 2008 om 23h42

  2. Koen de Kort, renner van Astana en voorheen Liberty Seguros, heeft er in ieder geval flink de balen in. Hij zit nu voor de tweede keer bij een ploeg die vanwege dopingperikelen van bepaalde wedstrijden uitgesloten wordt.
    Jammer, want hij leek na een aantal goede prestaties in 2004 en 2005 op weg om een goede Nederlandse renner te worden...

    | Meggie | Saturday 16 February 2008 om 00h52

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