PARIS // Astana announced their line-up for the Tour de France today, with their challenge built around the 2007 winner Alberto Contador as leader and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong. In a glitzy presentation on their official website, the Kazakh team said the two stars will be backed by past Tour podium finishers including Andreas Kloeden of Germany and the American Levi Leipheimer. The selection has been widely awaited by many cycling fans because it suggests who team manager Johan Bruyneel believes Astana should build its team around for this year's Tour.
Bruyneel coached both Armstrong and Contador during their Tour wins. Contador, who has five stage wins this season, "has worked very hard, earning the right to represent our team as the leader this July," Bruyneel said on Astana's website. Bruyneel said he was "very happy" with Armstrong's form during his comeback season, adding: "I know he is extremely motivated for the Tour de France." Astana, seen as one of the strongest teams this year, had already announced a list of six Tour riders, including Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, the 2005 Tour's best young rider, and veteran mountain specialist Haimar Zubeldia of Spain.
The three additions today were Dmitriy Muravyev, the only Kazakh rider in the squad and a Tour newcomer; Portugal's Sergio Paulinho - a strong Contador ally; and Gregory Rast of Switzerland. The three-week race, cycling's showcase event, starts July 4 in the principality of Monaco. *AP