The Astana Cycling Team has responded to the Giro d'Italia's decision not to invite the Luxembourg-registered squad to participate in the famed Grand Tour, saying it regretted the decision of organizer RCS Sport. Astana was one of several ProTour outfits left off the invite list to this year's Giro, after the event was allowed to chose its own teams following a 'special calendar' announced by the UCI last week.
"The Giro direction has the freedom of choice," said team manager Johan Bruyneel. "We regret that. Lodging a complaint will not help us. The coming weeks, we will prove that we still have our place in all big cycling events."
Astana's reaction pointed out that RCS opted against including the Kazakh-backed squad in the Italian race due to the pedigree of the potential roster it submitted to contest the event, not the doping controversies that have dogged the team over the past 12 months. The outfit has been completely rebuilt during the off season, with a new management team appointed following the outfit's dismissal from the Tour de France last season after star rider Alexander Vinokourov tested positive.
"At this moment, the quality of the proposed participating riders for the Giro is not in proportion to the potential of the team," said RCS events director Angelo Zomegnan. "I do not take into consideration what happened with the old Astana in the past. Time probably cures all things."
Bruyneel, the former Discovery Channel team director, said the Kazakh sponsors that fund the outfit have offered their unconditional support to the outfit, despite not being included in the world's second largest stage race.
"Fortunately, my sponsors confirmed today their unconditional support," he said. "With their support, we started building a new team in a clean environment. We will continue on that way. I hope, for cycling in general, that the sponsors of the other non-selected teams react in the same way."
The squad's sports director Alain Gallopin, who worked with Team CSC in 2007, was hoping to return to this year's event with another surprise package as he did last season with Andy Schleck. "We surprised the world with Andy Schleck," he said. "I had the intention to motivate Jani Brajkovic in the same way as I did with Schleck.
"At our training camp in Albuquerque last week, we had the chance to discuss Andreas Klöden's year program," he added. "He liked to participate in the Giro d'Italia. The race fits perfectly in his planning. We never had the chance to discuss it with the organizers."
While Astana was left off the 21 team announcement last week, there is a still remote possibility the outfit could be granted a start for the race. Included in the Giro's initial announcement was that the event's organizer reserves the right to review the invitations at its own discretion.
"If the Giro directors would reconsider their selection, we will be ready for it," said Bruyneel. "Above all, we hope, for the Tour of Italy as well as for cycling in general, that the Giro can go on. All IPCT members decided in their General Assemble of January 17th not to participate in races where Pro Continental teams start if their riders do not have a biological passport. There will be a lot of work to do for some teams."