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September 23, 2009

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Quick Step confirms talks with Astana's Contador

QUICK Step is in talks with Alberto Contador about signing the Tour de France champion for next season, the Belgian team's manager said yesterday.

Spaniard Contador, one of five riders with wins in all three Grand Tours - Italy, Spain and France - is under contract with the Kazakh-funded Astana team until 2010.

"Right now, we are waiting. We must see whether the International Cycling Union are going to grant a ProTour licence to Astana," Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere told the Gazet van Antwerpen.

"If they do not, we would have the opportunity to recruit Contador. We are in concrete talks with him. I have been negotiating with his manager. I have had two interviews with Contador himself, the last one on Friday."

Astana, which has experienced financial difficulties this year, has yet to be granted a licence to race at the highest level next season.

Contador said last week he was still unsure which team he would be racing for in 2010, adding that he had been looking at Caisse d'Epargne, Garmin-Slipstream and Quick Step as possible alternatives.

Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego has demanded his teammates be ruthlessly honest about their physical condition so Italy can again triumph at Sunday's world road championship. In last year's race at Varese in Italy, retiring Paolo Bettini gave up the chance of a third straight title when he realized his hopes of winning were dwindling and ordered Italian compatriot Alessandro Ballan to ride to glory.


Cunego, second in Varese and one of the favorites for this season's world championship at Mendrisio in Switzerland, wants similar sacrifices if necessary this time.

"The only thing is sincerity. People have got to say who is feeling really good and who isn't, then you can plan. Sincerity is important," the 28 year-old said.

"You must always be willing to sacrifice. It will be the same this year." Riders race with their national teams in the world championship rather than their usual professional outfits, but Italy leader Cunego does not expect an unhealthy rivalry with any compatriot and thinks all of them can win.

"It's not like that when you are in the national team, we are together," he said. "We have lots of strong riders, not just Ballan."

Cunego has assumed the role of Italy's main hope after some impressive performances of late, while Lampre teammate Ballan has slipped down the pecking order following a season disrupted by a virus. However, 2004 Giro d'Italia winner Cunego is trying to keep a lid on expectation.

"Obviously I think with the last few results I've had, I've become more of a favorite compared to the others. But there are lots of other contenders," Cunego said.

Having won two stages, he left the Tour of Spain early last week to prepare for the worlds but said his time on the road had helped him get ready for Mendrisio.


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