Astana has announced that Roman Kireyev has retired from professional cycling with immediate effect, seemingly leaving the way clear for both Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin to compete for the Kazakh squad.
Astana began the season with 28 riders on its roster, the maximum permitted in a ProTeam under UCI regulations. When Vinokourov stated his intention to retire after he broke his femur in a crash at the Tour de France, his berth on the team was taken by Kashechkin, who rejoined from Lampre-ISD, and is currently riding in the Vuelta a España.
On Saturday, however, Vinokourov insisted that he had not yet called time on his career and that he was training with the aim of competing in the Tour of Lombardy in October. This development meant that Astana had 29 registered riders, rather than the permitted 28.
Astana has since issued a statement declaring that Roman Kireyev intimated his decision to retire on Friday, and that the UCI was informed on Monday.
“On Friday, 19 August 2011, the rider of Pro Team Astana Roman Kireyev informed the management of Pro Team Astana about his decision to finish his career as professional cyclist,” read the statement. “This information wasn't unexpected for the management of the team, because Roman already discussed this step with sport directors few months ago.”
According to Astana’s statement, Kireyev, who only turned 24 in February, has been forced to retire due to injury. The Kazakh joined Astana in 2008, and he completed the Giro d’Italia last season. He recently finished a solid 40th in the Tour de l'Ain stage race in France.
“Roman explained that he suffered too much from his back injury, which he got last year, and this situation had become unbearable to him. Pro Team Astana informed about this case UCI, which confirmed the reception of the contract resignation on Monday, 22 August 2011.”
Kireyev’s retirement brings the number of riders on Astana's roster back to 28. His name has already been removed from the Astana roster on the UCI website.
A report in L’Équipe on Sunday suggested that Andrey Kashechkin had been signed by Astana’s commercial manager Aidar Makhmetov against Vinokourov’s wishes. Makhmetov subsequently told Cyclingnewsthat Vinokourov was free to continue as either a rider or a manager with Astana in 2012, but he defended the recruitment of Kasheckin, describing him as “the co-founder of the team.”
Kashechkin and Vinokourov both tested positive for blood doping while riding for Astana. Vinokourov was caught during the Tour de France, while Kashechkin resulted positive a few days after quitting the race.