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Clouds Parting Over Astana??

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Um... what a day this is turning into:

Rumors are flying in Spain that Giro d'Italia organizers are reconsidering their decision and might welcome Astana to the season's first major stage race. Vuelta a España officials reiterated Wednesday that Astana will be welcome, but warned that any hint of scandal could see the team lose its spot.

h/t dheadrick... this needs its own post. Rumors aren't important until, well, they are. But if Astana do get a Giro invite, the implications of this would be manyfold:

  • ASO would become the lone holdout on Astana. They're probably comfortable with that, but don't assume anything ASO/Le Tour says or does is OK with RCS/Il Giro.
  • So let me see if I understand how things work: if we think you're a bad actor, we will exclude you from our race... unless you win a lot, in which case we'll reverse the rules. The lesson? Start drawing blood now. To be clear, I didn't call Astana cheaters, ASO and RCS did. The other lesson? Race organizers cannot be counted on to do anything but act in their own short-run self-interest.
  • Could Astana get a Giro squad together on six weeks' notice? Contador would be a big favorite to win, provided he can generate a late-May fitness peak that he has not been planning or training for. Brajkovic or Leipheimer could probably handle the parcours if the Giro fits their schedule better, though only Leipheimer would immediately slot in as a favorite.

Actually, Levi at the Giro would be so strange I would feel compelled to root for him. He's been avoiding Italy for years, hasn't he? Levi! Caro! Come home! You look like you could use a nice meal. Don't they feed you boys in Kazakhstan?