Astana team has been given a deadline by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to sort out its financial problems. The UCI has sent a letter to Kazakhstan's cycling federation, notifying it of a possible suspension if the team's cash flow is not restored by May 31.
Team manager Johan Bruyneel revealed the news to media outlets on Tuesday. "That's the deadline to arrange the whole financial situation. If it's not taken care of by then, the letter says that the team will be suspended," Bruyneel said, adding, "At least we're going to be able to finish the Giro."
The Giro d'Italia, which the team is currently racing with Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, ends on May 31.
Astana is lacking the $2 million in order to replenish the UCI bank guarantee that has already been used to pay salaries. Bruyneel and Armstrong indicated last week that they were trying to find solutions, including taking over the team under a new sponsor. They now have less than three weeks in order to find a solution, with ties to the Kazakhstan sponsors apparently faltering.
"I've already said that all I know about Kazakhstan is Astana and Borat. I don't know anything more," Armstrong told the Guardian. "It's not my team, it's not my sponsor. I've got nothing to say about it. I would love to give you an answer but I don't have one. I would be speculating."
Securing one or more new sponsors this far into the cycling season will not be an easy task, even for Armstrong. "It's difficult to go to any major corporation and say in the middle of the calendar year - the fiscal year - 'How about we start in 20 or 30 days?' But we'll see," the seven-time Tour de France winner said.