Levi gets a ride …

Astana invited into Giro lineup – Cycling – Yahoo! Sports

GENEVA (AP)—Giro d’Italia organizers have invited the Astana team to compete in the race, reversing an earlier decision to ban it because of doping scandals.

Astana officials confirmed Saturday they are hurrying to get elite American rider Levi Leipheimer from California to Palermo, Sicily, for the start of the three-week race next Saturday.

“It is a good moment for us. When we were told in February that we were not invited it was a disaster,” Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told The Associated Press.

Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France, will also be at the starting line for Astana. The had been shunned by cycling’s biggest events this year, including the Tour, for involvement in doping scandals. It was asked to leave the 2007 Tour after team leader Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion.

The Kazakhstan-backed team brought in Johan Bruyneel, the Belgian who guided Lance Armstrong to seven Tour victories, as director to overhaul its image and operations. It also signed Contador.

Astana’s rebuilding work was rewarded late Friday, when Giro organizer RCS Sport called Bruyneel to offer his team a place.

“We are hurrying now to arrange everything. We must have a truck and a bus down to Sicily—it is not the perfect preparation,” Maertens said. “Levi was still in California and Alberto was on holiday in Spain because he had a dental operation two weeks ago. Everybody is happy.”