Astana gets green light to carry on racing

The Astana team has been given the green light to carry on racing after the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirmed that the Kazakhstan-sponsored squad has sufficient funds in place.

Previously the team had been given a deadline of May 31 by the UCI to prove that it has the necessary funds in place to function – and pay its riders – or risk losing its ProTour licence.

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani confirmed the news via the Associated Press agency: “The UCI asked for new bank guarantees from Astana. Astana has respected the deadline and can take the start in the Tour of Luxembourg. We will follow the situation very closely.”

The team immediately took advantage of its participation in the Tour of Luxembourg (June 3-7) by providing the winner of Wednesday’s opening prologue – Gregory Rast. Astana’s Assan Bazayev and Andreas Kloden came 4th and 6th.

Problems surface at Giro d’Italia

Lance Armstrong took part in a high-profile protest against non-payment of sponsorship money during the Giro d’Italia last month. Eight of the nine Astana riders wore faded jerseys, where the names of sponsors who hadn’t paid were obscured. Only Kazakh rider Andrey Zeits wore normal kit.

Kazakhstan has been hit hard by the recent global recession, and several of the companies that were sponsoring the team have been in financial difficulty. It has been strongly rumoured that several of the team members, including Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, had not been paid for months.

Armstrong himself does not draw a wage from the team. The seven-times Tour de France winner is funding himself during his first year after coming out of retirement in January.

When the team’s financial problems surfaced at the beginning of the Giro, Lance Armstrong attempted to find a solution to the problem. ?For me nothing’s changed because I don’t take a salary,” Armstrong said. “But there are a lot of soigneurs and mechanics that have family and children and when they sign a contract they expect to be paid.

“These Kazakhs, they don’t return phone calls and there’s not a lot of clarity about what is going to happen.”

Armstrong and team manager Johan Bruyneel had sought to find new sponsorship prior to the start of the Tour de France in July.


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