Rast assumes Tour de Luxembourg lead for Astana

Astana's Gregory Rast became the first leader in the 69th Tour of Luxembourg on Wednesday after being the fastest rider to complete the prologue, a 2.7km time trial in the streets of the nation's capital. Three-time Swiss road champion Rast was pleased with what was his first win of the season.

"I had this prologue already in my mind for a long time. The last two years, I was good in this prologue, but could not win it. Now I am much stronger," said Rast. "My sprints are better. This prologue was a long sprint. Of course I will try to keep the leader's jersey."

"In 2007 I won the overall classification. I would like to repeat that victory. The climbs are not so steep or hard here. I hope to be able to not lose time uphill on the Schlecks and the Italian riders. On the other hand, with Assan Bazayev and Andreas Klöden, we have two other riders able to win this Tour of Luxemburg." Bazayev and Klöden finished fourth and sixth in the prologue.

Earlier this year, Rast wore the yellow leader's jersey in the Tour de Romandie for two days.

Rast's win came as good news after the team's financial troubles. The UCI allowed ProTour team Astana to start the race on Wednesday after the team guaranteed its finances. The team was authorized to compete again after it showed proof of sufficient funds for the short term.
"The UCI asked for new bank guarantees from Astana," said UCI spokesperson Enrico Carpani to the Associated Press. "Astana has respected the deadline and can take the start in the Tour of Luxembourg.

The UCI had imposed a deadline after the end of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, for the team to show proof of the required bank guarantees or risk suspension. Astana had failed to pay riders for two months.

The news bodes well for Astana's intended participation in races such as the Tour of Switzerland and the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré leading up to the Tour de France, a goal of team stars Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

See Cyclingnews' coverage of stage one of the Tour of Luxembourg.

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