The team might have two Canadian riders in Hugo Houle and Ben Perry, and a legendary Canadian DS in Steve Bauer, but Astana will lose Canadian company Premier Tech after five years of financial support and one season as shareholder and title sponsor, the squad announced on Thursday.
💠 NEWS: @_PremierTech to withdraw as co-title sponsor at the end of 2021
A big thank you to Premier Tech for their support throughout the last five years. We look forward to finishing the season together 💙
— Astana – Premier Tech (@AstanaPremTech) August 5, 2021
It was only nine months ago that the team announced that it was to be co-title sponsored for the first time in its 15-year existence. The Kazakhstan-registered outfit would be rebranded Astana-Premier Tech after the Rivière-du-Loup, Que.-based machinery, packaging, horticulture, water treatment, gardening products and robotics corporation stepped up the support it had provided since 2017.
Jean Belanger, Premier Tech President and CEO, said: “Although it is disappointing for Premier Tech to end its collaboration with Kazakhstan, it has been fantastic to be involved in the project since 2017. Unfortunately, it has become clear in our ongoing discussions and planning for the future that we do not share the same vision and we have been unable to come to an agreement that works for both parties. Premier Tech is committed to the sport of cycling and will announce in the near future the next phase of its presence in the peloton and WorldTour scene.”
Things got a little weird two days before this year’s Tour de France when Alexandr Vinokourov, the founder and longtime principal of the team, was axed for “personal reasons”, and Bauer and Giuseppe Martinelli assumed the roles of team principal. Alexey Lutsenko finished seventh and Houle earned his second best Grand Tour result with 66th, taking a most aggressive rider award along the way.
Houle has a year left on his contract, but the future of Perry–and perhaps Bauer–with the team is to be determined.