UCI and Astana in circular firing squad

Circular firing squad

A story from L’Equipe that’s worth translating. There’s now a power-struggle inside the Astana team to decide its future.

It begins with the inclusion of Andrei Kasheckin, the Kazakh rider had a mid-season transfer from Lampre to Astana in order to ride the Vuelta. But L’Equipe claims the move should never have happened as Astana’s roster is full with 28 riders, the maximum allowed under the rules. Adding Kasheckin would mean 29 riders, more than allowed. Yet the UCI approved Kasheckin’s transfer and racing licence a few days ago.

L’Equipe says the UCI demanded an explanation from the team (shouldn’t it have checked before?) as to why they registered a 29th rider. The team responded that Vinokourov had broken his contract with the team, meaning there was now space for Kasheckin.

This now turns out to be false, Vinokourov left hospital recently brandishing a medical note saying he’s fit for competition and yesterday declared he’s aiming to ride the Tour of Lombardy. Whether he does or doesn’t, Vino is clearly signalling “I’m fit to ride, I’m part of the team“. Indeed Vino told L’Equipe:

“I’m still a rider. I’ve a valid contact [NB until 2012]. I’m especially disappointed by what’s been happening behind the scenes at my expense”

It now means Astana have 29 riders and given he has started the Vuelta, it seems the UCI are unwilling to eject Kasheckin but want the situation resolved. For the team it seems some are trying to remove Vino from the team, a bizarre move given how closely he is associated with the squad.

Kashechkin and Vinokourov
Happier days for Kash n' Vino

That’s the story so far from L’Equipe. It’s what you might call a developing story. If true then this could blow up into something big. The governing body appears to have been tricked by false statements from the team regarding the status of its riders, in particular the claim that Vinokourov had been ejected from the team. Vino denies this and now there are moves to remove Kasheckin.

It seems odd to me that nobody in Aigle checked with the parties concerned before validating Kasheckin’s licence but it’s not the first time that UCI bungling has led to confusion over Vino’s status. Banned for one year in 2007 for blood doping, the UCI didn’t pursue a full two year ban because it heard Vino was retiring; when the Kazakh announced a comeback the UCI had to go to the CAS to get a correct ban imposed.

Blame game
Whilst each side points at the other, longer term if a team is having trouble explaining the status of its riders to the UCI then it’s potentially damaging for the team. A squad shouldn’t be messing about with the rules and this could torpedo the squad’s ProTeam status, given the possibility of questionable ethical and administrative standards.

Power struggle?
Admin aside, there’s the other question of  whether some people are trying to kick Vinokourov out, and for the benefit of Kasheckin? Once a vehicle for the benefit of Vino, who is in charge at Astana?

17 thoughts on “UCI and Astana in circular firing squad”

  1. So how does Vino recover this quickly from the injuries he suffered in France? Did they shuffle in his evil twin from somewhere, or does this guy have uber-amazing recuperative powers?

  2. I doubt that Vino has any real intention of coming back. His declaration of a return to racing is simply a strategic manouvre to ensure that Astana is credited with his UCI points, and hence automatic inclusion in the Pro Tour.

  3. What if Astana wanted both ways? They needed Kashechin onboard to gain points, Vino is unlikely to win more points this year, and they want Vino’s current points to count toward next year’s statis.

  4. I think Jim has it spot-on. Vino will in the car. But his points will count in Astana’s UCI ranking.

    Best of both worlds?

    (Personally I have not noticed ‘Vino’ exhibit any great aptitude for team leadership or management – but hey I’m a long way away, watching on TV.)

  5. There is probably a really simple answer here that I’m missing, but what is puzzling me is that I thought the max squad size was 30 riders, not 28. Other teams seem to have 30 riders. Could someone please explain?

  6. Tom: it comes down to hiring neo-pros. You can have 28 max but this can go up to 30 if you take on 2-5 ne0-pros at the start of the tear. Astana didn’t take on any neo-pros, so they are set at 28. UCI rule 2.15.110… but the UCI website lists 29 riders with Kacheckin now, in breach of the rules.

  7. Astana is a professional cycling team, that has frequently defied UCI rules, and gotten away with it.

    Ignoring the doping elements of the team, the financial rules were disregarded with rider salaries, team deposits, and yet they retained a protour licence………..

    Just exactly how ?
    and when faced with this disregard, what’s the likely outcome….?

    When potential teams applying for team licences, are made to jump through metaphorical hoops,
    how exactly does the UCI balance such stringent requirements, when they fail to police current teams with such blatant disregard for their own rules?

    What exactly does it take for the UCI to remove a protour/world tour team licence ?

  8. As per above, I am totally perplexed by how Astana maintain a ProTour (or whatever its called this year) licence.

    The UCI keep talking about ethical criteria, etc. And yet a team like Astana, which has had so many non-sporting issues occurring, seems to breeze through the licencing process every year…

    Yet again, the UCI prove that no matter how they talk the talk, they’ll never walk the walk…

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