A delegation of five Astana representatives will today meet with the UCI to address the ongoing issue of the team’s ProTour licence in 2010. A decision is expected on November 20 and Het Nieuwsblad reports that the party aims to sure up the squad’s licence arrangements in an attempt to maintain the services of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
If Alexandre Vinokourov’s outfit fails to organise the requisite financial and structural arrangements ahead of the decision, the likelihood of Contador seeking a contract elsewhere becomes a virtual inevitability. Lingering doubts remain about Astana’s readiness to pass the standards set by cycling’s governing body, something that has dogged the team all year.
In 2009, continual questions have been asked of Astana’s ability to meet the requirements for a ProTour team, with several near misses and last-minute bailouts for the Kazakh squad, which was by far the strongest outfit at this year’s Tour de France.
Since that dominant Tour performance, Astana’s name has been sullied somewhat with notable characters such Johan Bruyneel, Lance Armstrong and Andreas Klöden exiting the team during the year to headline the fledgling RadioShack ProTour outfit, in addition to Vinokourov’s return late in the season.
This has led to constant speculation over Contador’s future, with claims and counter-claims linking the Spaniard to big-dollar deals with the likes of Quick Step, Garmin-Slipstream or Caisse d’Epargne. In recent weeks Patrick Lefevere’s squad has firmed as a possible destination for the two-time Tour champion, although Contador’s brother and manager Fran stated last week his sibling would remain at Astana.