Armstrong says he could take over Team Astana and Giro could be its last race
Lance wants to set up a team, his current team is in trouble – Lance does the maths
Lance says he wants to set up his own professional cycling team... Astana, Lance's current team, is unable to pay its riders... Bingo! Why doesn't Lance take over Astana?… and call it something else naturally. Hey, and then Alberto Contador could call him “boss”… which would be nice.
It's taken a while but Lance Armstrong finally joined the dots for everyone who has been following the increasingly tortured story of the Astana cycling team not being able to pay its riders. Armstrong himself doesn't take a pay cheque from the Kazakhs – which is probably just as well or they would have been in trouble a whole lot earlier.
Last week, ahead of the Giro, Armstrong said he had plans to set up his own professional team, backed by a major US corporate sponsor. Today, in an interview with the Associated Press news agency, he revealed those plans were well advanced and that given the current turmoil at Astana his new team could well be his old team – including Alberto Contador who he said he would do everything possible to keep.
"If I were the boss of the team or I were partners with Johan, I would want him on the team," Armstrong said. "I would not let him go. No way. Obviously I would have to pay him, let's be fair, but he's the best rider in the sport right now. If you want to look for the next five to ten years in cycling, we would have to do everything to keep him."
Astana is rapidly heading for the brink. It's riders have not been paid this season despite the Kazakh Cycling Federation saying they would be paid last month. If the money is not forthcoming soon there is every chance the UCI will revoke the team's Pro Tour licence possibly even before the end of the Giro.
"I think if they pull it and they don't have the funding, that's the last race," (for Astana) Armstrong told AP. "All that UCI business is out of my league. I don't know any of those rules."
Armstrong also said that interest from US multi-nationals in sponsoring a team owned and run by him was strong, but added: "You're not going to find one in a week and say, 'by the way we need 10 million bucks, please come on.' They don't jump that quick".
However, if the Giro proves to be Astana's last race any other potential sponsor is going to have to jump very quickly indeed if Armstrong and Contador are to have a team to ride for in this year's Tour. On the other hand what potential sponsor could resist the coverage likely to be generated by having the world's best known cyclist riding in the world's best known cycle race in their team colours, and as a bonus having the guy who's actually going to win the race too.
Lance and Levi in the final week of the Giro wearing jerseys with “Your name here” on the chest… it could happen.