Marc Biver has a long history in the sport as an agent and race organiser, but now he's got a new project: general manager of the Astana team, overseeing the efforts of riders such as Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, and Paolo Savoldelli in their bids to land the biggest prizes in the sport. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes sat down with the Luxembourger for half an hour at the team's recent training camp in Majorca to hear more.
It takes a particular kind of confidence for a team to publicly declare they don't need a ProTour licence, but right up to the moment Astana secured the twentieth slot that is precisely what they were saying. That self-assurance is born out of the fact that they have such a strong line-up; Alexandre Vinokourov won the 2006 Tour of Spain and is one of the best all-round riders in the sport. Andreas Klöden has placed second and third in the Tour, Paolo Savoldelli has won two Giri d'Italia and Andrey Kashechkin was third in last year's Vuelta.
That strength in depth earned the team assurances of an invite to each of the Grand Tours this season, so when they did net the final ProTour place in mid-December, it was a confirmation rather than a salvation.
At least that is the stance of Marc Biver, general manger of the new team. "I honestly didn't think too much about it," he told Cyclingnews at the team's recent training camp in Majorca. "For us, in the end it wasn't a big deal to have it or not because with the team that we have, the quality of the riders, I don't think we would have had any problems to get invited into the major races. We already had guarantees from the three big Tours that we would be invited, so we did not stress too much about getting the license."
Astana were initially passed over by the UCI on the grounds that it was not satisfied with the financial guarantees in place.
However an appeal was made, an extension was given and with Manolo Saiz losing out on his own licence, the Swiss-based team eventually got the green light. Upon reflection, Biver does see some advantages to that.
"In the end, it is better to have one firstly because it makes things easier and, for Kazakhstan, it was also a question of prestige. It is probably a good thing, even if I am not totally convinced that the ProTour is the right thing to have in cycling."
To read the first part of the interview with Marc Biver, click here.