Cycling: Contador quits Astana over equipment failings

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The Independent Online

Less than three days after he celebrated a third Tour de France win Alberto Contador has declared that he will be parting company with his Kazakh team, Astana. Whilst disagreements over future salary contributed to Contador's abrupt announcement that he was leaving, a series of equipment disasters have been a contributory factor.

Contador's personal press office officially announced that the Spaniard and his team for the last three years would be going their separate ways but the statement left a door open to a last-minute agreement saying that he would "consider all options on the table", – including, presumably Astana. However, sources close to Contador told The Independent that there will be no such backtrack and that negotiations between the Spaniard and his current squad have ended for good.

The most spectacular equipment problem occurred when Contador's race radio broke after the first seven kilometres of the Tour's crucial 52km final time-trial stage which meant the Spaniard had no idea how he was time-wise compared to his rival Andy Schleck in an event decided by a few seconds.

A one-off radio breakdown happens to nearly every cycling team, but Contador's race radio has been failing in almost all the time-trials he has taken part in this season.

Astana were also incapable of getting their team car's television to work during the Tour. As a result when Schleck had a mechanical problem during a Pyrenean stage and Contador continued racing – an incident which generated a huge controversy – the team were unable to give him any exact information to Contador of what had happened to Schleck.

Contador was also said to have been dissatisfied with the pay rise to an annual €5m offered in his contract renewal, and after he ignored a deadline issued by the Kazakh squad for a definitive response set for two days after the Tour the writing was on the wall.

The separation is now so definite it is even uncertain that Contador will take part in any more races for Astana. A rumoured participation in September's Tour of Spain, which he won with the Kazakh squad in 2008, has now been ruled out and only a couple of exhibition races are on his schedule.

It is unclear who Contador will race for in 2011, but Bjarne Riis's team, set to lose Schleck to a new Luxemberg squad, looks like the most likely destination for the Tour winner. Sky have already said they have no interest in signing the Spaniard.