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Astana to continue in 2022 with Vinokurov to return

Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali 2021 36th Edition TTT Gatteo Gatteo 10 km 23032021 Astana Premier Tech photo Roberto BettiniBettiniPhoto2021
Astana-Premier Tech, who will lose one of their co-title sponsors at the end of this year, riding the team time trial at Coppi e Bartali (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Astana, which announced earlier this month that co-owners and co-title sponsor Premier Tech would be withdrawing at the end of the season, said the team’s future was secure with its Kazakh shareholders confirming they will continue as team owner and title sponsor for the 2022 season.

Premier Tech came onboard for the 2021 season, helping pull the team out of financial troubles during the COVID-19 pandemic but the Canadian company's CEO Jean Belanger said in the statement announcing their withdrawal that it had become clear that the two parties did not share the same vision. 

The announcement came weeks after general manager Aleksandr Vinokourov was removed from his managerial role just days before the Tour de France. Cyclingnews learned that the split centred around a disagreement over his future

As Cyclingnews first reported in early August, Vinokurov is now back in charge, with the Kazakh shareholders and sponsors willing to give him a second chance after he spent most of July lobbying for support and building his power base. 

When Premier Tech were unwilling to budge on their stance of wanting Vinokourov to remain outside of the team, the founding stakeholders at Astana dug their heels in and quickly informed Premier Tech that they were being forced out.

There was no confirmation of the future of current managing director Yana Seel.

“Alexandr Vinokurov has been reappointed as Sports Team Principal for the 2022 season and will oversee the rider and staff recruitment and sporting operations,” said Astana in a brief statement.

Vinkourov has the position of team principal since he retired as an Astana rider in 2012 but his methods and management caused friction as Premier Tech stepped up their involvement.

He was involved in the creation of the Astana team, which is supported by the Kazakhstani sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna. The team has not been without its troubles in the past. In 2018, Vinokourov complained that the team's promised support had not arrived in time for the season. Then in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic soured the financial markets riders were obliged to take a 30 per cent pay cut while racing was stopped.

Premier Tech’s involvement alleviated these issues with contracts with core riders renewed, however the team’s future became a major talking point when this year agents were repeatedly told to wait when it came to re-signing and hiring riders.

“With preparations underway for the team’s 17th year in the peloton, announcements regarding rider contract extension and new rider signings will be made in the near future,” said Astana in the statement.