Vinokourov fears for Astana's future as sponsor CCC confirms exit from cycling

The Polish shoe manufacturer says they will end their sponsorship at the end of the season while the Astana boss worries his team may not even get there

Jim Ochowicz of Team CCC and Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana (Getty)

CCC have confirmed they will cease sponsoring Jim Ochowicz's WorldTour outfit at the end of the season, while Astana boss Alexandre Vinokourov says his team will cease to exist if there's no racing for the rest of the year.

These latest developments in the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on cycling echo the UCI's worries that not all teams will make it to the end of the season, highlighting five unspecified teams that are finding the economic landscape more difficult than others.

CCC's riders, including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, have agreed with management that they will receive at least 50 per cent of their wages this year, according to Het Nieuwsblad, after the Polish shoe manufacturer's share price fell 90 per cent and they looked into immediately reducing or stopping their commitments to the cycling team in order to save their company.

CCC suspended their non-riding staff for the rest of the non-racing period in April, while riders' salaries were only half-paid in March and not at all in April.

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The squad, who rode as BMC Racing up until the end of the 2018 season, will now look for a new headline sponsor for 2021, with CCC saying they could still possibly co-headline sponsor the team but that it's unlikely. Their bike sponsor, Giant, will continue to back the team but not as a title sponsor.

Another team fearing for their future is Astana, with team boss Alexandre Vinokourov saying that if no racing happens at all this year then his team will cease to exist.

"In Kazakhstan, it is very difficult, just like the rest of the world. The oil and the currencies make it complicated," he told Cyclism Actu.

"We have to get through this year. When there are no races, it will be difficult to start cycling again. Is my team at risk if there are no races this year? I think so, just like all other teams. The sponsors require visibility. I think that if there are no races this season, our team will disappear."

Vinokourov says the UCI have performed a "miracle" in putting together their revised racing calendar, fitting all three Grand Tours and the Classics into a 71-day period, and he believes it was a necessary decision in order to save the sport.

"In any case it's better than nothing. I think the UCI have performed a miracle," he continued. "We needed a calendar and there was a big job for the UCI president and the whole team around him. All major events like the Olympic Games or the Euros [football] were cancelled, and for our discipline, it's important to race this year to survive.

"So I think the UCI has done a good job with this calendar, which is of course really busy, but I understand all the organisers want to make their money. It's going to be weird having the Tour de France in September and the other races later, but for the fans it's good because they will be able to watch cycling on TV, because as I said all the other big events have been postponed."

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