Britain’s Sean Yates has signed with the Astana cycling team as directeur sportif. Yates joins his former Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel at the Kazakhstan-based, Swiss-registered squad.
Talking to Cycling Weekly before he had confirmed his employment with the team, Yates said: “I would be bloody stupid not to take a job with them.”
Astana are in the process of restructuring the squad after a torrid year, punctuated by high-profile doping cases. The crisis came to a head during the Tour de France when Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping and the entire squad left the race. The team’s Matthias Kessler and Andrey Kashechkin also tested positive this year, bringing the squad’s very existence into doubt.
Despite the team’s history, Yates has very clear views on where Astana are going: “Astana want to push on, and if anybody can help turn this team around it’s Johan Bruyneel. He’s head and shoulders above any other manager in the business.”
“I don’t see how anybody with half a brain would associate a potentially new Astana with what has happened before, particularly if Bruyneel is involved.”
Tour de France winner and Discovery Channel rider Alberto Contador was also strongly linked to the ‘new look’ Astana, but yesterday his management announced that other offers were also on the table.
Discovery Channel announced that the squad would disband at the end of 207 due to lack of sponsorship for 2008.