Oscar Pereiro confided to the press this week that his contract dispute with Astana may mean the end of his cycling career. The dispute arose when the team tried to change the terms of his contract, a change which meant lowering the Spanish Tour winner's salary by a third. Pereiro said he had signed a contract, and at the time, he believed he would take Haimar Zubeldia's roster spot and ride in support of Alberto Contador's Tour ambitions. The team's efforts to change the terms of his contract came as a surprise to Pereiro, and he has said that he will not ride for the lower salary. he has set his lawyers to work on the case.
If he can end his contract with Astana, Pereiro said he would try to sign with a new team. But the Astana contract goes into force on 1 January, which does not leave much time for the lawyering required to end it. Pereiro noted in his press statement that he could not sign for another team while he still had a contract with Astana. He said that the situation likely meant his "adiós" from cycling, but that he was not "overly sad." I "must be realistic," he concluded.
Pereiro is best known for his 2006 Tour de France victory in which a lucky escape into a long breakaway set up his general classification campaign. Though he stood on the second step in Paris, Pereiro received credit for the victory after Floyd Landis lost the title to a failed doping control. The following year, Pereiro finished tenth in the Tour after riding in support of Caisse d'Epargne team-mate Alejandro Valverde.
Pereiro never really returned to his best form after he crashed badly during stage 15 of the 2008 Tour de France. Pereiro went over the guardrail on the wet descent off the Col Agnel, falling to the switchbacked road below. The crash required a lenghty recovery period and resulted in a slow return to racing this season. His contract with Caisse d'Epargne ended this season, and rumor connected Pereiro with several teams this Fall, before he signed with Astana. In particular, he had an agreement to sign with Quick Step, if Astana did not receive its Pro Tour license. He may now be wishing he had signed on with Lefevre, rather than dealing with the Kazakhs, who seem to have a knack for complicating the most basic team management tasks. Perhaps the Spanish rider's lawyers will yet find a way to win his freedom. But for now, it looks as though his career may come to an end.
Adiós y buena suerta, Oscar.
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images Sport.