The news that Astana would retain their WorldTour licence, along with the eight-month long storm embroiling the Kazakh squad, consequently seems to have died down in appropriately tranquil surroundings at their team hotel in Belgium, where one part of the Astana squad, including leader Vincenzo Nibali, is based for the entire Ardennes Week.
When the Kazakh squad finally officially received the UCI’s communiqué, less than half a dozen reporters were present at the hotel-cum-health resort, situated in rolling pastureland on the outskirts of a dormitory town near Liege. But there was certainly no high drama, or indeed any sense of drama at all, when the news broke.
Instead, sitting in unseasonably warm evening sunshine outside the main building, two mechanics from BMC Racing, the other team staying in the plush country hotel, enjoyed a quiet beer at a table opposite the two squads’ line-up of vehicles. A small child, riding a bike round the quiet park opposite the hotel, watched curiously as journalists continued with their stakeout.
But as the evening dragged on, there was barely any sign of Astana staff, other than a few mechanics tending to the bikes, and still less riders in the hotel’s lower floors and reception area, with only birdsong and a noisy fountain breaking the rural calm. If there was any kind of celebration, it could not be seen or heard.
Astana riders filing past in a nearby corridor for dinner, as the news finally broke, made no comment to journalists.
Friday will continue as usual, team sources said, with a Liege-Bastogne-Liege reconnaissance in the morning of the last 100 kilometres for the whole squad. A press conference will be held in the afternoon, when reactions will finally become public.
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