Astana to ink sponsorship deal

Alberto Contador takes a turn at the front of the Team Astana train.

Alberto Contador takes a turn at the front of the Team Astana train. (Image credit: AFP)

Financial woes may be over for the Astana cycling team after it lined up a three-year sponsorship deal with a Kazakh state's holding company, Samruk-Kazyna. Kazakh Cycling Federation deputy president Nikolai Proskurin said the team is expected to sign a deal on Monday according to the Associated Press.

The holding company Samruk-Kazyna includes some of Kazakh's largest companies including oil and gas company Kazmunaigas and national airline Air Astana, both of which would be the team's exclusive sponsors in a deal spanning the next three seasons.

"They will be the general sponsor and will take all the expenditures upon themselves," Proskurin said to the Associated Press.

The Tour de France-winning team Astana is awaiting news of the status of its application to the UCI for renewing its ProTour team license for 2010 and beyond. The UCI is currently reviewing the application. The news is expected to boast Astana's chances of license renewal.

Astana was plagued by financial problems earlier this season when it fell behind on the payment of riders' salaries. Despite the issue, the team was allowed to ride the Giro d'Italia, where the team's riders protested the lack of salary payments by graying out the names of the sponsors on its jerseys.

Astana's management was given a May 31 deadline to guarantee all salaries going forward. The team met the deadline and was allowed to continue racing for the rest of the season It went on to take first and third at the Tour de France with Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong is leaving Astana for Team RadioShack in 2010. Contador has explored options with other teams, but is presently bound by a contract with Astana through 2010. If the Kazakh team keeps its ProTour license, it will be difficult for Contador to move to another team.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.