UCI gives Astana May 31st deadline
UCI orders Astana to sort out finances or face suspension from competition
Astana, the team that won last year's Giro d'Italia and for whom seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador ride, has been given until May 31st to sort out its finances by world cycling's governing body the UCI.
The warning was apparently delivered to the Kazakh Cycling Federation which owns the team according to Astana's team manager Johan Bruyneel. Failure to comply could lead to the team being suspended, a sanction that the UCI has been willing to use in such cases in the past.
The May 31st deadline does at least mean that the Astana will be able to complete the Giro. Going in to today's fourth stage Lance Armstrong lies in fifth place 31 seconds off the lead while teamates Yaroslav Popovych and Levi Leipheimer are just behind him in seventh and eighth places.
Armstrong last week indicated that he was speaking to potential US corporate sponsors with a view to taking over the team himself next year. However he also admitted that that schedule might have to be brought forward if if the current financial turmoil engulfing the team continues. Certainly if Astana cannot meet the May 31st deadline he will have little choice if he is going to try for an eighth Tour de France win.
He also admitted though that it could be difficult finding a large sponsor in the current climate and in the middle of the financial year when budgets have already been allocated – and indeed where spending on marketing is likely to have been cut. However, the chance to be a part of the level of coverage that Armstrong is likely to attract at the Tour de France plus the fact that the likely winner, Alberto Contador, rides for the same team would we are sure be extremely attractive for big corporates even in these difficult times, especially if the whole package were to come at a mid-season bargain price.
Watch this space…