Transfer Games: what next for Riis and Astana?

For a long time the transfer season revolved around Alberto Contador. The saga of his team for 2011 meant many other big names could not move until the Spaniard made up his mind. For example Astana recruited Kreuziger and Menchov went to Geox but only after Contador had announced he was going and in turn Rabobank and Liquigas couldn’t finalise their plans. It wasn’t just riders and teams, the sponsors behind Bjarne Riis stayed put when it became possible to land Contador.

Only now the keystone of the transfer market is crumbling thanks to Contador’s positive test. If a ban is imminent, here are some questions that I’m wondering about:

  • Presumably Riis’s contract with Contador has an anti-doping clause. Will Riis sack Contador?
  • If yes, would Riis suddenly have a pile of cash to poach a rider from another team?
  • Would Riis actually keep Contador on the books if there was a one year ban, with a view to welcoming him back in time for 2012?
  • Do Sungard and Saxo Bank have clauses in their sponsorship contracts relating to doping? Because if this is technically Astana’s problem, what will the new sponsors say about the association. Does the contract provide for this?
  •  Can Porte, Navarro and others offer enough to replace Contador, not to mention the depature of the Schlecks and Cancellara?

What next for Astana?
Whilst everyone’s asking about Contador and Riis, a whole separate area is the future of the Astana team. It started 2010 like almost every other year: under new management, promising a fresh start and keen to put the past behind it.

The recruitment of Yvon Sanquer was a big deal, the Frenchman was supposed to be a new broom. Only the team’s biggest rider has just been busted. Is there a team with a worse history of doping and public busts?

Yvon Sanquer playing scissor paper stone

Only now there’s the question of the team’s ProTour licence renewal. The attribution of the licences is dependent on a number of criteria, including ethics. Could it be that with several teams chasing a small number of licences that the team is overlooked because of its endless series of scandal?

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