Astana back on track, team says

Financial problems resolved

The Khazakstan government has agreed to back cycling's Astana outfit for the rest of the 2009 season, including the Tour de France, a team spokesman said today.

The promise of support guarantees the involvement of seven-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong and 2007 winner Alberto Contador in the race which starts at Monaco on June 4.

"It was impossible to imagine our team being outside the world's greatest event," said Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel, who confirmed there would be no change in the team's line-up of riders. "It means we can look forward to the next races, for us this is a fresh start," he added.

Bruyneel gave no information about the future of Khazakh rider and former Asztana team leader Alexander Vinokourov, who remains under suspension for doping until the end of July.

Last week, Astana said that financial problems were being resolved, avoiding possible expulsion from this year's Tour.

Astana's riders were subsequently able to wear their traditional jerseys at the beginning of the third stage of the Criterium Dauphine Libere race.

During the race's first two days and for much of the Tour of Italy in May the riders wore jerseys on which the name of the main sponsor, Astana, was all but blocked out.

Outstanding differences have apparently now been settled between the Kazakh cycling federation, the team's licence-holder, and the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The UCI had threatened to rescind the team's Pro-Tour competition licence after the team's riders were reportedly not paid for two months.

Kazakh Minister of Tourism and Sport Temirjan Dosmukhambetov was quoted as saying last week a mystery American organisation had been lined up to invest in the team.

© 2009 AFP

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