Oscar Pereiro was considering retirement until the Astana deal [GALLO/GETTY]
Kazakh cycling outfit Astana has boosted its attack force by signing former Tour de France champion Oscar Pereiro.

The Spanish cyclist has signed a one-year deal and will join the team's training camp in Italy where he will be united with defending Tour champion Alberto Contador.

The 32-year-old former Caisse d'Epargne rider said last week he was considering retirement after a contractual dispute with Astana.

Pereiro, who won the 2006 Tour after Floyd Landis was stripped of the
title due to a positive doping test said he had agreed a deal last month but the team had then tried to re-negotiate it

"There was no explanation. They didn't say anything,'' Pereiro said.

"I'm sorry for what happened, but let's move forward without any bad feelings. It was all a little strange but now I think everything will be fine.''

Injury

Pereiro has not been the same cyclist since retiring from the 2008 Tour with injuries sustained after going over a guardrail during the 15th stage.

He believes he has finally recovered from that accident and will be an asset to Alberto Contador, who is looking to defend his Tour title.

"After that fall I was out for four months and I was nervous on my return,'' Pereiro said.

"Physically and mentally I was not fit.

"But I think this change of teams will bring extra motivation. I think it will be a good thing for me and for the team. I just didn't have much luck.''

Contador however, expects a difficult year in 2010 after opting to stay with Astana.

The Spaniard had a turbulent 2009, marked by a prickly relationship with team mate and seven-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong, and opened negotiations with other leading outfits.

He eventually decided to not to break his contract with Astana, but told Spain's Marca newspaper his chances of winning a third Tour next year were limited.

"I am realistic and I know that I have a weaker team than in previous years and for that reason we'll have to work hard on motivation in training so that we know what we can achieve and how to do it," said Contador, who turned 27 on Sunday.

"I know that it will be a difficult year and it's possible I won't be able to win the Tour even if I am in good shape," he added.

"People will be focusing a lot on me but my rivals know that the team I will have is not the same as before."

Contador, left, endured a competitive relationship with Armstrong last year [AFP]

Bitter relationship

Armstrong and Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel are forming a new team, RadioShack, for next season, and Contador confirmed his relationship with the American had never been easy.

"That's nothing new," he told Marca.

"I am thinking about the 2010 Tour, not the 2009 one, even though I admit he pushed me to the limit in all areas, psychologically and physically," he said.

"But it helped me a lot to mature and I hope to exploit that experience next year."

Contador said his programme in 2010 would be similar to past years and he did not plan to compete at May's Giro d'Italia as it would be asking too much so close to the Tour de France, which gets under way at the start of July.

He said he may take part in the Vuelta a Espana depending on his performance in France.

Looking further ahead, he did not rule out staying with Astana beyond 2010.

"We'll have to see how everything goes because Astana could be a great team and I decide to stay, even though I may also change teams or set up my own, something that would be highly motivating but would tax my energy."

Source: Agencies