Tomorrow's final deadline for the UCI’s registration of teams is crucial for the future of the Astana team. The governing body is poised to make a decision about whether or not the Kazakh squad will continue in the ProTour, and this will also determine whether or not Alberto Contador will stay.
The double Tour de France winner has one year remaining on his current contract, but it’s widely accepted that if the team loses out, he will be free to head elsewhere.
"We had a meeting with the Astana management on Monday, which went pretty well," UCI President Pat McQuaid said to Cyclingnews today. "However that was more to do with other things than the outstanding documentation – we were discussing various issues, including anti-doping. As regards the application, the team have until Friday to submit the remaining documentation and administrative information."
The team has been plagued by financial issues, with several instances of delayed payments being reported this year. At one point it looked like the team would dissolve, but steps were taken to turn things around and ensure that it rode the Tour de France. Contador won there, with teammate Lance Armstrong taking third.
Reports of delayed salaries resurfaced again in recent weeks. McQuaid acknowledged that this was indeed the case. "It is accurate that they have been delayed," he said. "But the latest information is that recent salaries have been paid."
He declined to be drawn as to the chances of the team remaining in the ProTour. Sportwereld claimed today that things were looking good for the team after 'three days of intense negotiations'; however, McQuaid said that there was just one day of talks, and that it’s too soon to say how things will turn out.
In theory a decision could come tomorrow, but that would most likely happen only in the case that the team was being refused. "The deadline for all the documentation has to be in this Friday," said McQuaid. "If the documentation isn't in by Friday, there could be a decision then. Otherwise, it goes through a further process…it will go to an independent licence commission and that will take longer."
Contador has been the recipient of many offers, with the quadruple Grand Tour winner being in big demand. Apart from Astana – which clearly needs him to boost its chances of a Tour invite – other teams such as Quick Step, Caisse d'Epargne, Garmin Slipstream and Liquigas have all been in talks with him.
It was announced in recent days that the Specialized company has agreed to a 700,000 euro deal for the Spaniard to use its bikes. Quick Step is another team backed by the American company, and this would appear to boost its chances should the Contador-Astana contract be dissolved.
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