from Cycling News:
Kazakh coup to oust Armstrong and Bruyneel from Team Astana?
July 3, 11:44,
July 3, 10:17
Are last drinks being called for Bruyneel and Astana?
Contador and Vinokourov in, Bruyneel and Armstrong out
The Kazakh Cycling Federation has announced plans to restructure Team Astana, removing Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong, and starting over with Kazakh and Spanish riders, based around Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov. The new structure should be in place by September, according to the French sports publication L'Equipe.
After recent problems with sponsors' money, faded out jerseys and Vinokourov's public statements regarding his return to cycling and the future of the Astana team, this comes as little surprise. If this development goes beyond the rumor stage, a big question will be whether Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong have the resources to obtain a Protour license and pull together a team to complete the season. My understanding is that the rider and equipment agreements are with Bruyneel's management entity, so if there is a split, who goes where? Trek and Nike, among others, will stick like glue to Lance Armstrong because that is where the value lies, particularly for the American market. That will be a scramble that will play out soon enough.
NOW, THERE MAY REALLY BE FIREWORKS ON THE ROAD!
The question remains as to whether Lance Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer have the form to be top contenders but, if so, this rift could set the stage for a mighty contest. Both sides would be racing not only for a Tour win but, more than is usual, sponsor dollars and fan support. Will Johan lose control of Contador and his allies on the team? There is only one other Spaniard, Zubeldia, along with the Portugese, Paulinho, and one Kazakh rider who would probably join a Contador faction. Where the loyalties of riders like Kloden would fall is unclear to me, but I suspect that they would see a brighter future under Bruyneel than with Vinokourov and his proven-shaky partners. Right now, I really wish Chris Horner had made the cut!!
This is going to be wild. Hopefully, it WILL result in an epic confrontation and not turn out to be a contest among the also-rans. These guys are not the only teams looking for a win and other teams will obviously look for advantage over a split Astana.
...AND THE SPRINTERS' DUEL JUST GOT BUMPED UP A NOTCH...
Tom Boonen has just been cleared to race. Look for Boonen and Mark Cavendish to be going at it for every sprinters' stage and for the green jersey. American Tyler Farrar could also be in the mix as he's beaten Cavendish before, is confident and in top form. There are obvously other sprinters in the race, but Boonen and Cavendish are in a contest to be the top rooster in the yard. My money is on Cavendish.
Things may not turn out the way I want them to in this Tour, but it will damn sure be a wild ride!!