Astana Again

Yesterday Danish and Norwegian media made allegations that Jakob Fuglsang of the Astana team was in contact with banned doctor Michele Ferrari. It’s all been denied and makes for a strange story with a political tone.

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Team Victory Rankings

With a lull in the racig between the GP Le Samyn and the Strade Bianche this weekend a chance to take stock of the season so far. As ever the quantity and quality of wins are not the same thing, every team manager would happily trade 50 wins for the Tour de France but the chart is a chance to take stock of where teams are at.

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Astana’s Financial Alert

On the same day Michael Valgren won the Omloop, Astana team staff got an email saying their employer was waiting for sponsorship cash and the team later confirmed it is in financial difficulty. This followed news on Friday night on where team manager Alexandr Vinokourov warned his team had not received its funding for 2018 and was paying travel costs out of “savings”.

The team’s not bankrupt but management must be nervous: why make this public because even if the promised cash shows up it will only deter riders from renewing or joining the squad?

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The Moment The Omloop Was Won

Embed from Getty Images

Michael Valgren has gone solo and Sep Vanmarcke gives chase in the final straight. The strongest rider didn’t win, the strongest team did.

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The Moment The Race Was Sold?

There’s news that the trial of Alexandr Vinokourov and Alexandr Kolobnev over the alleged sale of the win Liège-Bastogne-Liège is going ahead next March. This is an old story or rather a slow story that has yet to reach a conclusion but brings some intriguing angles from how the law will deal with race tactics; to helping us explore how much a race is actually worth rather than the prize list and more.

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Astana Licence Reasoned Decision

The UCI have published the Licence Commission’s reasoned decision to let the Astana team ride on. It confirms last week’s speculation that whatever trouble the team was in was related to softer, cultural issues rather than anything dramatic.

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Astana Ride On

Vinkourov Astana

Update: Astana do ride on and the UCI will continue to monitor the team for the rest of the year. The reasoned decision of Licence Commission will be published in due course says the UCI.

The Astana team meets the UCI’s Licence Commission again today for a second hearing following the UCI’s very public call to remove strip the team’s World Tour licence. La Gazzetta Dello Sport says no decision is imminent either.

A second round suggests this is not a slam dunk case. If it was then a review of the files and an obligatory hearing would have been enough to remove the team from the sport. What happens next has been a regular question by email in recent weeks but the rules aren’t clear and the outcome is more uncertain. Here’s a look at the case and some potential outcomes…

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UCI Wants to Remove Astana’s Licence

Coffee, croissant, L’Equipe. It’s such a pleasant routine during the cycling season but if Alexandr Vinokourov emerges from his Monaco apartment this morning in search of the newspapers he’s in for a scolding surprise. L’Equipe reports that the UCI has asked its Licence Commission to withdraw the Astana team’s licence and the UCI has confirmed this with a press release.

It’s a giant move, to ban any team is serious but to exclude the reigning Tour de France champion and a team that is a flag carrier for a large country is a bombshell.

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The ISSUL Performance Criteria

Astana team

What’s the good news of this week? One improvement is the new audit of the Astana team by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) imposed by the UCI as a condition of its licence. As well as the investigation audit which will be finished by February, the team has to sign up for a wide-ranging set of “operational requirements” for the whole year.

The ISSUL guidelines imposed on Astana aren’t just a mechanism to save the team’s licence. Instead they’re set to become a core part of the proposed UCI cycling reforms, compulsory for all teams in a few years. They cover a lot of territory from job insecurity to coaching with the twin themes of doping and money. An article in L’Equipe does a great job in explaining some of these changes and here are some of the highlights.

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Spot the Difference

Look closely at the two screengrabs from La Gazzetta dello Sport and see what’s different. Sure see one is more pink, the font is different and the picture changes. But the headlines about Michele Ferrari and a €30 million web of suspect payments and pro cyclist contracts are the same. So what is the big difference? Time.

The first image is from 2012 and the second is from Thursday. Having read both stories they’re almost the same, only the 2014 version has just a bit more detail on the payments and drops more names. Why has the same story come back again?

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