CALAHARRA, Spain Astana team leader Johan Bruyneel is looking forward to reuniting with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
Bruyneel said Wednesday he already has begun discussions with close friend Armstrong, who's coming out of his three-year retirement to try to win an eighth Tour title in 2009.
"He won't have a problem finding a team. But it's clear that the relationship we have means that I can't allow him to go to another team," Bruyneel told reporters at the Spanish Vuelta. "For me it would be nice to be a part of this."
Rabobank team leader Adri van Houwelingen said the Dutch team had no interest in signing Armstrong.
"We were very interested in Lance Armstrong 15 years ago, and I think Lance Armstrong is not the future of active cycling," Van Houwelingen told the AP. "In my opinion it's impossible to win. It's impossible to come back on the level he had before. I don't know what his motivation is."
Bruyneel said Armstrong is coming back to promote the fight against cancer globally after doing "all he could" within the United States.
"He knows that coming back is incredible news and that a lot of people won't give him credit for it, and that's what motivates him," Bruyneel said.
Despite their close relationship, Bruyneel said Tuesday night was the first time he spoke with Armstrong about his comeback plans.
Although Bruyneel said sponsors and Astana directors still must give the green light, it sounds as if Armstrong is headed for a reunion with his former team director. But Bruyneel, who's signed to Astana for another two years, said the discussions with Armstrong about joining Astana are focused only on 2009.
"It's my team, this is what I built, so there's no way (I will quit it)," Bruyneel said when asked if he would be ready to leave the Kazakh team to work elsewhere with Armstrong.
And Bruyneel is confident adding Armstrong won't cause problems within the Astana team, led by 2007 Tour champion Alberto Contador.
"Alberto is the best rider at the moment, while Lance is on the comeback. These are things we will see about," said Bruyneel, who had no doubt Armstrong would provide excellent support to the Spaniard at the Tour should he find himself out of contention.
"We have seen on other occasions he's a great teammate," Bruyneel said. "I think it will be a relationship filled with a lot of mutual respect, but we'll see."
Contador, who called Armstrong's return great news for cycling, acknowledged the Tour could be a tricky situation.
"Sure, the two of us would like to win the Tour and some kind of complication could develop, but to arrive at that point would be a race in which different factors would come into play," he said. "For now, let's not think about those."
One thing on Bruyneel's mind, however, is Armstrong's age. He'll be 37 next week, and a three-year layoff from the sport would leave him at a disadvantage in his chase for an eighth Tour title.
"It's a bit of an incognito. Not only the age, but also the years out of competition," Bruyneel said. "None of (the training in between) comes close to what a professional athlete does. What is the reality? He is very motivated."
That doesn't surprise any elite cyclist.
Current Tour champion Carlos Sastre didn't flinch when asked about Armstrong's return."It's been a few years since he's been at the top level, but it wouldn't surprise me," the CSC rider said coolly. "He's a champion, and always when you can have one more as a teammate, I would love that."
Associated Press writers Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.