Astana-Premier Tech have revealed their new name for the 2022 season, as their headline sponsor Premier Tech pulls out of the team
The Kazakhstani WorldTour team have been through a turbulent few years, defined by financial trouble and leadership changes.
From next year the team, run by former pro Alexander Vinokourov, will be known as Astana Qazaqstan, as the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation will become a major stakeholder in the team.
The name change coincides with the return of Vinokourov to the helm, after some slightly bizarre power struggles at the top of the organisation in recent years.
Earlier this year, reports emerged that Vinokourov was fired in 2020 as part of the Premier Tech shake-up, as the Canadian packaging machine manufacturing company joined the team as part owner. Vinokourov was then reinstated just one day later, according to the reports.
Vinokourov was fired once again by the team on the eve of the 2021 Tour de France, but then in August the team announced he would be returning to run the team heading into 2022.
Recent reports have suggested that Vinokourov was reinstated after an intervention by the Kazakhstani government.
The Astana team, named after the capital of Kazakhstan (which has since been re-named Nur-Sultan), is currently co-owned by a group of state-owned Kazhakstani companies and Premier Tech, giving the national government considerable influence over the squad.
Premier Tech will now be leaving Astana after just one season, reportedly due to the conflicts within the team, and is believed to be in negotiations with another WorldTour team about a potential partnership.
The leadership struggles follows financial difficulty for the team in 2020, as riders and staff weren’t paid at the start of the year due to a delay in receiving the budget from the sovereign wealth fund.
On the new approach for 2022, Vinokourov said: “It is an honour for me to return to the leadership of this team as a general manager. For the past 16 years the Astana Cycling Project has been the hallmark of our country in the world of sports, and I would like to thank the leadership of Kazakhstan for many years of support and trust.
“Astana Qazaqstan Team is not just a new team name, it is an updated project philosophy emphasising closer integration of our sports brand and promotion of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a major international partner. In the current period, preparations for the new season and the registration of the team in the top division are in full swing. Beside this we are working on an additional project, which we will announce soon.”
Astana said that Qazaqstan is “the most accurate and correct name of Kazakhstan in its English transcription,” as the team refocuses on its commitment to promote the nation through cycling.
Nurlan Smagulov, the president of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation said: “The name of our state will appear on the cyclists’ jerseys and in the new team logo, and it will become a kind of sign of the continuation of traditions and, at the same time, a moment of change and renewal for the sake of two important goals: promotion of the image of our country all around the world and development of domestic cycling.
“The project is getting a second wind and is preparing for a new turn in its development. I would like to express my special gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as to the Professional Sports Club Astana, which actively support the team. I am happy with the fact that Kazakhstan Cycling Federation is going to play an important role in the development of the renewed team and the implementation of ambitious plans, which will be announced in the nearest future.
“Also, I am happy that our federation will be presented both in the Board of Directors and in the management of Astana Qazaqstan Team. We envisage strengthening the team’s work with the federation in the transfer of professional skills to domestic athletes and specialists as well as deeper participation of Astana Qazaqstan Team in the life of Kazakhstan cycling.”
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