The future of the Astana team, and so Alberto Contador‘s presence in the team, is in doubt yet again after the UCI reportedly demanded that the Kazakhstan team supply a bank guarantee to cover the team’s $22 million 2010 budget.
According to the Associated Press news agency, the Kazakh Cycling Federation deputy president Nikolai Proskurin said the Union Cysliste Internationale (UCI) is demanding the $22 million bank guarantee before it will renew the team’s ProTour license for 2010.
Proskurin said the demand was unreasonable and doubted that the team can meet the Wednesday deadline.
Failure to secure the ProTour license will force Astana to release 2009 Tour de France winner Contador and throw the future of the Astana team in doubt. Proskurin said Astana is the only team being subjected to such rigorous financial demands by the UCI.
“It seems to me that they don’t want an Asian team in the ProTour, and for it to beat European teams,” Proskurin told AP.
The UCI demanded extra bank guarantees from the Astana team in May after serious delays of payments during the 2009 season and the financial problems could have affected the team’s ProTour aspirations.
The UCI press office initially refused to respond to Proskurin’s comments.
Proskurin blames Bruyneel. He responds on YouTube
AP quoted Proskurin as blaming Johan Bruyneel for trying to stop the Astana team. He quit as Astana team manager in the summer and is now working with Lance Armstrong to create the Radio Shack team.
“Bruyneel told us that he would do everything possible to ensure that they withdrew our license,” Proskurin told AP.
Bruyneel quickly responded to the accusation, by posting a video on Youtube from Belgium.
“I don’t know what kind of problems they have for the moment in the (ProTour) administrative process. I know the rules are very strict but I just want to deny the fact that I would like or want to see Team Astana go away,” Bruyneel said in the video.
“On the contrary its good for everyone that there are top teams as much as possible. Astana is definitely one of them. So once again I absolutely deny the fact that I’m the manipulator as some people over there say and I would definitely like to see them in the ProTour.”