Lance Armstrong says sponsor to be named Thursday for "our" team, but which team is that?
Is this a go! for Team Armstrong or a big pile of dollars for Astana…
Lance Armstrong will today reveal the identity of the new American sponsor of “our” team whether that means Astana or a new, possibly Livestrong team managed by Johan Bruyneel we'll find out for sure later.
Armstrong announced on Twitter that he would be:
“Making a very cool announcement on Thursday re: a new American partner for our team in 2010 (and beyond). Stay tuned!”
The likelihood is that the team will be managed by Bruyneel and star Armstrong and be owned either by both of them or possibly Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation.
Armstrong's ability to attract funding, even in a recession, should not be in doubt, earlier this week we reported a leading US marketeer making just that point. Over the past two weeks he has given a graphic demonstration of the level of media interest his participation in a grand tour can generate and laid the grounds for a return in 2010 and a re-match with Alberto Contador – currently his team mate, but who knows for how much longer.
If Armstrong and Bruyneel were to put together their own ProTour team it would seem logical for it to race under the Livestrong banner – Armstrong already races for Livestrong in domestic US races. Livestrong has close relationships with a number of US corporations most notably Nike so it will be interesting to see if they are the new sponsor anounced today.
It is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that Armstrong and Bruyneel will stay at Astana, but most observers think it unlikely that the pair will be part of the Astana set-up after this summer. Alexander Antyshev, executive director of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation admitted last week that Armstrong could possibly be leaving and that Bruyneel would be going with him, indeed the AFP News Agency is quoting Bruyneel as saying after yesterday's stage at the Tour that he would be leaving Astana and turning a new page in his career.
They could well be gone before the Vuelta when Alexander Vinokourov, the disgraced Kazakh cycling star for whom the Astana team was originally formed says he will be returning to take charge – and anyone who doesn't like that can leave. Those remarks were aimed explicity at Bruyneel and the current team management.
Astana has suffered a funding problems this year in many parts due to falling mineral revenues for the state holding company which funds the Kazakh Cycling Federation which holds the Astana team licence, but also in part due to the waning of influence within the Kazakh Government of the teams patron. However, the team has now been taken up by another prominent member of the Kazakh ruling elite (one of the President's son-in-laws, replacing another presidential son-in-law).
According to the new regime they will be pumping considerable funds into the team both, from Kazakhstan and from an as yet un-named major US sponsor, so there is the possibility that the announcement could be about that, it could even be that Armstrong and Bruyneel's position at the team is about to be cemented in place and that Vinokourov is in for a shock.
Stranger things have happened in cycling.