The Kazakh Cycling Federation has announced plans to restructure Team Astana, removing Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong, and starting over with Kazakh and Spanish riders, based around Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov. The new structure should be in place by September, according to the French sports publication L'Equipe.
At a press conference earlier this week, Vinokourov said that he would return to the team after his doping suspension. He was responsible for bringing in Astana as the sponsor in 2006 for the team he calls "our baby." Vinokourov further added, "If Johan doesn't want me, it will be up to him to leave the team."
In support of those comments, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaiev has become involved, according to L'Equipe. Sponsors who do not pay up will disappear from the team jersey, with only the name Astana remaining, he indicated.
As for the team structure, the newspaper indicated that Bruyneel and Armstrong would be removed and thus be free to establish their own team. They were on the verge of presenting the team as new at the Tour, the newspaper says, with new jerseys and a made-over coaching staff, but one of the partners cancelled at the last minute.
Alberto Contador would continue as the captain of the new Astana team. "We will meet with Alberto Contador to offer him a contract extension," said Nikolaï Proskurin, the vice-president of the Kazakh cycling federation. "He will be our sole leader for years to come. He will be able to pick out the riders he wants to ride with him. In our mind, the team will be composed of Spanish and Kazakh riders, including Alexandre Vinokourov."