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Astana says money problems solved

Horner and other Astana riders will be able to ditch the faded jerseys before the Tour.

Horner and other Astana riders will be able to ditch the faded jerseys before the Tour.

Photo: Graham Watson

The Astana team announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with its Kazakh sponsors that will ensure its continued operation through the year.

In a release issued Thursday, the team credited productive meetings between Johann Bruyneel and intermediary Rinus Wagtmans, who served as a representative of Kazakhstan’s government for an accord, “which gives riders and staff of the Team sufficient guarantees for the operation and functioning of the Team for the remainder of the season.”

Bruyneel said he was pleased with the agreement and especially proud of riders who demonstrated “patience and professionalism during this difficult time and support of the program.”

“The Kazakh government showed that – despite the economical crisis – they really want to invest in cycling,” said Bruyneel. “They succeeded to find funds. We will not disappoint them. We look forward to representing our sponsor family with pride.”

The team, whose license is held by the Kazakh Cycling Federation, is largely funded by a coalition of Kazakh government and business interests. Kazakhstan’s economy, however, is largely dependent on oil and gas exports and prices of those commodities have declined in recent months. Bruyneel owns Olympus, the management firm that operates the team.

According to the team announcement, the Kazakh federation paid all outstanding obligations to Olympus and the Kazakh government has “fully guaranteed” continued funding for the duration of the season.

Bruyneel said the agreement comes at a critical time for the Astana team.

“With only 16 days left to the Tour de France, the riders need rest in their minds,” he said. “We are glad that we can continue with our strong team. It was hardly imaginable that our strong team would not have been able to participate in the world’s largest cycling event. Thanks to the guarantees made by the Kazakh government, we can continue with the same group that already proved in the past to be a real team.”

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