The Astana team will officially be known as Astana-Premier Tech after the Canadian company stepped up to a title sponsorship role to help bolster the finances of the Kazakhstani team for 2021.
Astana Pro Team has always been financed by Kazakhstani companies, often linked to the government, as a form of nation branding. However, that funding has reduced significantly in recent years, forcing the team to search for a new title sponsor. Premier Tech has been a sponsor on the team’s jersey since 2017 and now steps up to cover a larger proportion of the WorldTour team's budget.
Premier Tech is active in four core industries: solutions for professional growers and gardeners, packaging, water recycling, and digital solutions for manufacturing. It has plants in 27 countries and has recently taken over other companies in France, increasing its presence in Europe.
A statement from the Astana team said: “Premier Tech wants to connect its worldwide network of partners and customers through this co-sponsorship and partnership with Kazakhstan.”
Astana-Premier Tech will have Jakob Fuglsang as team leader, with talented young Russian climber Aleksander Vlasov also under contract for 2021 and expected to stay despite interest from Ineos Grenadiers. Canada’s Hugo Houle is under contract for 2021.
Longstanding directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli told Bici.Pro that Astana-Premier Tech is unlikely to sign former team leader Fabio Aru, instead focusing on younger riders. These include signing under 23 world champion Samuele Battistella from NTT Pro Cycling and fellow Italian talent Matteo Sobrero.
Ion and Gorka Izagirre are set to stay with Astana but Miguel Angel Lopez is expected to leave for Movistar, while Canada’s Steve Bauer joins as a directeur sportif, possibly replacing Aleksandr Shefer and Dmitrij Sedun.
Alexandre Vinokourov has long been the driving force of the team, managing the links between them and Kazakhstan, but reports in the Italian press suggest he might have a lesser role in the future. Yana Seel, who joined Astana at the beginning of the 2019 season, is the managing director of the Luxembourg-based Abacanto SA company that runs the team.
“The name of the team for the next year will be changed, but at the same time, the team will continue to exist under the auspices of Kazakhstan, despite the fact that funding from the General Partner of Samruk-Kazyna JSC will be significantly reduced,” Seel said in a statement announcing the arrival of Premier Tech.
“By the management of the General Partner of the cycling team, Samruk-Kazyna JSC, as well as the Astana Presidential Professional Club, the task was given of reducing the funding of a professional cycling team from Kazakhstan part, through the entry of a second partner, co-sponsor, who could share the financial burden with our country. The work was carried out successfully, in a quite short time we managed to reach mutual understanding.
"We are very pleased with the results of the negotiations with the Canadian side. We will continue to glorify the name of Kazakhstan as well as the name of our new Canadian partner Premier Tech in the global sports arena."
Discussions are also underway to create two youth teams in Canada and Kazakhstan.
“For Premier Tech, this announcement is the culmination of a partnership that began in 2017; one that is fuelled by a long-standing passion for cycling,” Jean Bélanger, president and chief executive officer of Premier Tech said.
“The Astana – Premier Tech team perfectly captures the essence of our company and the spirit that drives this partnership, which is to constantly push the limits to redefine the standards and reach new heights, while surrounding ourselves with driven, talented people in order to succeed.”
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