Astana’s push to secure registration for the 2010 season continues to drag on, with the International Cycling Union (UCI) currently studying additional documentation requested of the team in advance of tomorrow's decision.
According to Sport24.co.za, the Kazakh Cycling Federation deputy president Nikolai Proskurin said on Tuesday that the UCI had demanded a bank guarantee equivalent to Astana’s annual budget of US$22 million.
This amount was underwritten by the Samruk-Kazyna state holding company - the squad's new title sponsor - which last week transferred an initial sum of about US$3.7 million to the paying agency for team salaries.
"It seems to me that they don't want an Asian team in the ProTour, and for it to beat European teams," Proskurin alleged.
Cyclingnews has received confirmation that the UCI has indeed asked for additional guarantees. It follows on from several incidences of late payment of salaries during the 2009 season, with the latest delay happening in recent weeks.
Proskurin indicated that it would be very difficult to satisfy the requirements before the Wednesday deadline, but Cyclingnews has learned that some documentation was sent to the UCI on Monday. It’s not certain if this satisfies the UCI’s demands in full.
That documentation is currently being assessed by the UCI ProTour Council.
A representative of the UCI told Cyclingnews that the governing body will issue its decision vis-à-vis an outcome on the team's registration, due tomorrow afternoon. If approved, the team will receive immediate confirmation that it will be able to race in the ProTour next season.
Otherwise, there will be a further delay before the final outcome is known.
“This is not about the licence, as some media reports suggest - this is about the registration,” explained the UCI's representative. “There is a bit of a misconception out there but, strictly speaking, Astana already has the licence. That said, it is true that if teams fail to get their registration approved, that licence could be in danger.
“If things are fine with Astana, then everything will be confirmed tomorrow. If it fails to get the registration, the process will take longer as it will have to go back in front of the licence commission. The commission could either decide to withdraw the licence or confirm the licence.”
According to Proskurin, Samruk-Kazyna has already provided UCI with a pledge worth 15 million Euros (US$22 million) per annum for the next four years. This was rejected by the UCI, which is demanding financial guarantees from a bank.
Proskurin argues this should have been enough. "A guarantee from Samruk-Kazyna is much more important, because it has the stamp of approval of the government itself.”
Bruyneel rejects claim of sabotage
Former Astana general manager Johan Bruyneel has responded to a claim that he has tried to have Astana excluded from competing next year.
"Bruyneel told us that he would do everything possible to ensure that they withdrew our license," Proskurin stated.
The Belgian rejected this in a video clip posted on YouTube. “I don't know what kind of problems they have for the moment in the (ProTour) administrative process,” he said. “I know the rules are very strict but I just want to deny the fact that I would like or want to see team Astana go away," Bruyneel said in the video.
"On the contrary, it's good for everyone that there are as many top teams as possible; Astana is definitely one of them. So once again I absolutely deny the fact that I'm the manipulator as some people over there say and I would definitely like to see them in the ProTour.”
Bruyneel will be managing the Radio Shack team in 2010, and will hope to guide Lance Armstrong to an eighth Tour de France victory. His main rival is Alberto Contador, who has indicated he will stay with Astana next season providing it keeps its ProTour licence.
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