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Lance Armstrong has said he is working to save the Astana team from financial collapse and may take over the team with Johan Bruyneel before the Tour de France.
Several Kazakhstan-based sponsors of the Astana team have failed to pay in recent weeks, leaving riders and staff without wages.
UCI President Pat McQuaid has confirmed that the team could lose its ProTour licence if wages are not paid and the $2 million bank guarantee is not replenished before May 27.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Gazzetta dello Sport and the Associated Press news agency after arriving at his hotel near Venice on Wednesday evening, Armstrong revealed his frustration with the Kazakhstan sponsors and hinted that if they end their backing before the Tour de France, he would try and take over.
?For me nothing?s changed because I don?t take a salary but there are a lot of soigneurs and mechanics that have family and children and when they sign a contract they expect to be paid. These Kazaks, they don?t return phone calls and there?s not a lot of clarity about what is going to happen,? Armstrong said.
?Maybe the situation gets resolved and the guys start getting their dough, otherwise I think the licence ought to be transferred to Johan and we try and start a team in the middle of the season.?
Armstrong made it clear he had nothing concrete in place to save the Astana team but seems to have worked through several possible scenarios.
?You have to try and predict what will happen. Will people leave the team? Do people agree to race for free? I?m speculating, I don?t have any concrete answers but I suspect we can find some funding that would get us from June to the end of the year.
It wouldn?t be the full commitment that was promised by Astana but it would be better than nothing.?
Would Armstrong be part owner of any new team?
?I would think so. We obviously have a good crew of dudes that deserve to be there (at the Tour de France) but I don?t know how the logistics of how it all shakes out. I think they?d transfer it to Johan.?
Team Livestrong for Tour de France?
With the Tour de France just two months away, Armstrong knows he faces a race against time to find a sponsor if the Kazakhstan sponsors pull the plug.
But he seems determined to find a solution, perhaps with the involvement of people or companies who support his Livestrong Foundation.
?If someone commits to funding a team for half a year, that?s seven or eight million dollars, for a full season it?s 14 to 20 million dollars. That?s a serious decision and can?t be made in 20 to 30 days.
“But we?ll certainly try and it could be a combination of people that have a shared interest in Livestrong and what to see Livestrong promoted around the world and believe in what we?re doing from the foundations perspective in regards to the international cancer fight.
“That could be a possibility. That?s just speculation but we?ll figure it out. I?m quite confident of that.?
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