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Astana carry on as usual despite licence concerns

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Andrea Guardini keeping the points jersey safe for Caleb Ewan

Andrea Guardini keeping the points jersey safe for Caleb Ewan (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Valerio Agnoli and Andrey Zeits taking care of Andrea Guardini (Astana)

Valerio Agnoli and Andrey Zeits taking care of Andrea Guardini (Astana) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Andrea Guardini (Astana) wins stage 1of the Tour de Langkawi

Andrea Guardini (Astana) wins stage 1of the Tour de Langkawi (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Astana team ready to race at the Tour de Langkawi

The Astana team ready to race at the Tour de Langkawi (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Astana team lead the peloton at the Tour de Langkawi

The Astana team lead the peloton at the Tour de Langkawi (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Valerio Agnoli (Astana)

Valerio Agnoli (Astana) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

There may be a dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over Astana at the moment, but its team at the Tour de Langkawi is determined to carry on with business as usual.

In February the UCI requested that the Kazakh team’s WorldTour license be revoked following an audit conducted by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL). It came after five positive tests in a year for riders associated with the team (two coming from the Astana Continental team that has since been suspended) which led UCI President Brian Cookson to tell Cyclingnews they were drinking in the last chance saloon.

Despite the grave implications of losing WorldTour status for the team and its riders, out in Malaysia the issue is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

"It's not my problem because I'm a rider and I do my job," said Andrea Guardini, who has three stages to his name already. "It's a political problem, I don't see anything, it's not our problem, we do our job and that’s it."

His comments are in a similar vein to those of Tour de France champion Vincezno Nibali, who remarked ahead of Strade Bianche last weekend that the situation was all about politics.

Valerio Agnoli, one of Guardini’s key lieutenants, echoed his leader’s sentiments in similarly cagey fashion. "The riders think about racing and don’t think about this situation," he said. "Every guy is concentrating on the race."

Even at management level, there is little acknowledgement of any impact of the whole issue.

"It is absolutely not affecting the team here," said directeur sportif Dmitri Sedoun. "We are still easy because we know how it’s working with our team and we don’t have any problems so we go ahead like every time – nothing has changed."

Should Astana lose their license, they could face a situation where their key riders look elsewhere for contracts that will enable them to take part in WorldTour races. When asked if he has considered his future in this light, Agnoli said: "Today I think about the tour of Malaysia, tomorrow I think about tomorrow. I race. I only race."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.