A lot of people have seen the signing of Oscar Pereiro Sio as simply an attempt to bolster the Astana squad with an experienced rider who can be there when it matters in the high mountains.
His ability to sacrifice his own interests in working for Alejandro Valverde over the last few years will have been a characteristic that appealed greatly to Contador. This isn’t a guy who is going to give him grief or take off in search of a stage win while the real battle is happening behind.
That’s pretty vital to a guy who has lost his trusty domestique Sergio Paulinho to Radioshack. Contador still faces having to ride on someone else’s team with the return of Alexandre Vinokourov to “his” Astana team.
What is so brilliant about signing Pereiro is that it’s a very astute political move given the situation.
We can assume that ASO are going to be asking questions about Astana’s inclusion on the basis of Vinokourov’s presence. They’ve not forgiven him for his actions in 2007 which essentially amounted to kicking them in the balls while they were out cold after the Floyd Landis debacle.
Now name the only team in cycling with two Tour de France winners on their roster.
The answer is Astana with Alberto Contador and Oscar Pereiro.
The former is the defending champion who was unable to defend his title in 2008 because of the repercussions for Astana of Vinokourov’s ban.
The latter is the rider robbed of his moment of glory on the podium in Paris as a result of Floyd Landis’ ban.
In pure political terms the weight of their achievements/history combined may be the necessary counter to Vinokourov’s disgrace, which still drags like ten tonnes of shit behind Astana.
We know that being defending champion in 2008 wasn’t enough on its own to swing the balance in Contador’s favour, albeit the politics then included Johan Bruyneel on the scales.
Given the passing of time and their record, the two riders may be enough to convince ASO not to exclude Astana this year.