The Astana cycling team may have hit another hurdle in its efforts to re-secure its ProTour license after the UCI gave the team 24 hours to produce a formal bank guarantee before it will approve the team’s renewal.
The team’s license is effective through the 2010 season, but this year the UCI licensing commission has required all existing ProTour teams to undergo annual review before being allowed to maintain that status.
Last month, the team missed another new requirement, an October 20 deadline to supply the commission with relevant financial and management documents. While many of those documents were submitted last week, in time for the commission’s license review, a $22 million commitment from the Kazakh government to the team was not enough to allay concerns triggered by Astana’s financial difficulties earlier this year.
The cash infusion initially appeared to finalize the team’s contract with Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who had been very publicly voicing his dissatisfaction with Astana.
On Tuesday, however, the UCI said it needed more evidence of the Kazakh’s commitment, requiring the team to produce a bank guarantee by Wednesday.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Nikoli Proskurin, the deputy president of the Kazakh Cycling Federation, characterized the demand as unreasonable and said he was uncertain as to whether or not the team could meet the deadline.
Proskurin said the team is being forced to meet arbitrary standards that have not been made of other ProTour programs.
“It seems to me that they don’t want an Asian team in the ProTour, and for it to beat European teams,” Proskurin told the AP.
The commission began reviewing the documents of several teams last Friday, although no formal announcement of those teams’ status is expected until December.
Should the commission revoke Astana’s license, the most immediate impact will be on Contador’s contract. His agreement to ride for Astana in 2010 is contingent upon the team retaining its ProTour status and a failure to resecure that position among the world’s top teams would mean he’s free to sign a contract with another squad.