Sunday starts the 2008 racing season, at least in this country. I didn’t count the races in Tour Down Under nor the Tour of Qatar (won by Tom Boonen). Pretty soon, there won’t be an off-season, just winter trips to warmer climates. And if you count cycle cross, there really isn’t a break.
Anyways, Sunday is the prologue stage of the Tour of California. Tina and I are being joined by friends Russ and Mary for a couple of days in Napa Valley under the pretense of wine tasting, so that I can watch part of Stage 2 from Santa Rosa to Sacramento. We then have to “work” by attending a trade show in Vegas.
The big news at the bike race will be the future of the new Astana team. Last years Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador and last years California winner, Levi Leipheimer have both joined Johan Bruyneel on the new and improved Astana Team.
Wednesday, Astana was banned from the Tour de France because of its 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, organizers said. The entire Astana team quit last year’s Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov, a pre-race favorite, tested positive for a blood transfusion after his victory in the 13th stage time trial. Vinokourov’s teammate, Andrey Kashechkin, also tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after the Tour.
Johan Bruyneel fired back with “That the happenings of last year in Tour de France, prompted the Tour organizers to leave Astana out of the season’s most important race, sounds understandable. However, Astana Cycling Team 2008 has nothing to do with the team of last year. We have done everything to change the dynamics of the team. New management, new riders, new philosophy. Only the name of the sponsor remained. The Kazakh authorities gave me “carte blanche” to run the team. No pressure was put on us, there was no demand for big wins. We are spending 460,000 Euros on internal anti-doping efforts for 2008. What more can we do”
It should be an exciting week of racing and 2008 season news…. Stay tuned