The cycling team of Manolo Sáiz and Pablo Antón has a new sponsor: Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The team's management company Active Bay announced this on Friday, saying that the deal would be for at least three years, with the possibility of an expansion to six, and the team will now be known as Astana-Würth. The new sponsor is endorsed by five of the biggest companies in Kazakhstan, which is enjoying a strong economical upturn thanks to its abundant natural resources.
The Kazakhstani connection is to support Alexandre Vinokourov, who was to be the team's spearhead in the Tour de France. However, the Tour organisers ASO are not happy about having a team headed by Manolo Sáiz in their race: apart from the latest doping affair, Sáiz was also a strong supporter of the ProTour when it was introduced by the UCI in 2004. However, it is up to the Spanish federation to possibly sanction Sáiz, and it will not start any proceedings until the current court case allows it.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto