Astana-Premier Tech will be known as Astana Qazaqstan Team in 2022 following the departure of the squad’s Canadian co-sponsor at the end of this year.
In a statement released by Astana on Friday morning, restored general manager Alexandre Vinokourov said that the new name was not simply a cosmetic change, noting that it reflected “closer integration” between the team and the “promotion of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”
Premier Tech’s exit from its 50-50 partnership with Astana hinged on the status of Vinokourov, who was ousted as manager of the team shortly before this year’s Tour de France.
Astana’s founding stakeholders in Kazakhstan soon pressed for Vinokourov to remain in situ and Premier Tech, unwilling to fight a potentially lengthy legal battle to keep the him out of the team management, opted to withdraw from its sponsorship of the team at the end of this year.
It is understood that Premier Tech is in negotiations with another top-level team about a new partnership for 2022.
In its statement on Friday, Astana explained that the team’s 2022 name reflected the new branding of the state that backs it.
“Qazaqstan is the most accurate and correct name of Kazakhstan in its English transcription,” read the statement. “Qazaqstan is a kind of new brand of the state on the international stage, which is combining centuries-old traditions, language, culture and strategy of the country's development in the today’s world.”
Astana first entered professional cycling in 2006, taking over sponsorship of the Liberty Seguros team – which featured Vinokourov – in the aftermath of the squad’s implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping scandal.
Following Vinokourov’s blood doping ban in 2007, Johan Bruyneel became team manager the following season, and the squad won all three Grand Tours with Alberto Contador.
Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong departed the team for RadioShack at the end of 2009 following Vinokourov’s return from suspension. Vinokourov ended his career with victory at the London 2012 Olympics road race before becoming general manager of Astana the following season.
“I am happy that our team will continue its development under the new Astana Qazaqstan Team brand, and it is an honour for me to return to the leadership of this team as a General Manager,” Vinokourov said.
“For the past 16 years the Astana Cycling Project has been the hallmark of our country in the world of sports, and I would like to thank the leadership of Kazakhstan for many years of support and trust. Astana Qazaqstan Team is not just a new team name, it is an updated project philosophy emphasizing closer integration of our sports brand and promotion of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a major international partner.
“In the current period, preparations for the new season and the registration of the team in the top division are in full swing. Beside this we are working on an additional project, which we will announce soon.”
Astana Qazaqstan Team will have a revamped roster in 2022, with Vincenzo Nibali, David de la Cruz, Gianni Moscon and Joe Dombrowski among the confirmed new signings, while it is also anticipated that Miguel Angel Lopez will rejoin the team after rescinding his contract with Movistar.
Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle are expected to follow Premier Tech to another WorldTour team in 2022.
“The name of our state will appear on the cyclists' jerseys and in the new team logo, and it will become a kind of sign of the continuation of traditions and, at the same time, a moment of change and renewal for the sake of two important goals: promotion of the image of our country all around the world and development of domestic cycling,” said Nurlan Smagulov, president of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation. “The project is getting a second wind and is preparing for a new turn in its development.”
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