Astana settle debts, secure Tour de France place

Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and co. set for July

Lance Armstrong will be able to compete for his eighth Tour de France title this summer after his Astana team announced on Monday that they have resolved their financial problems.

Unpaid bank guarantees meant the Kazakh team, who also boast Spain's 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, had been threatened with expulsion from this year's race, which begins on July 4.

"The financial problems as of today are resolved," said Alain Gallopin, one of the team's sporting directors.

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

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

"The late payment has been made," team manager Johan Bruyneel told AFP by telephone. "The decision to change the jersey during the Giro was linked to this problem."

Two of the outstanding conditions have therefore been met by the Kazakh cycling federation, the team's licence-holder, after Astana last week provided the International Cycling Union (UCI) with financial guarantees that enabled them to keep their racing licence.

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.

"The third condition concerns the guarantee for the rest of the season, which is the responsibility of the UCI," Bruyneel added. "To my knowledge, it's not yet been done."

Bruyneel said he was "not aware" of the arrival of a new sponsor, after Kazakh Minister of Tourism and Sport Temirjan Dosmukhambetov said an American organisation had been lined up to invest in the team.

"It's an American company, which is working in the Kazakhstan market," said Dosmukhambetov, who did not reveal the sponsor's identity.

© AFP 2009...

AFP
Author: AFP

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