On Monday Astana’s team principal Alexandre Vinokourov confirmed a report that the team’s riders and staff hadn’t been paid for two months. Vinokourov told Spanish media outlet AS that the team’s budget, which comes from main sponsor Samruk Kazyna, a fund created by a coalition of Kazakh state companies, has been delayed. Astana is the team of Canadian Hugo Houle, Ruta del Sol winner Jakob Fuglsang and Angel Lopez.
Something similar happened to the riders and staff in February of 2018, with the funding again entangled in bureaucratic red tape. The team carried on on cash reserves.
Vino told AS, “As we are being sponsored by official government organization, sometimes there is a delay of payment due to slow administrative processing of the funds’ approval.” He assured the cycling world that the problem would soon be solved.
Some conjectured that the Samruk Kazyna might be suffering because of a sharp dive in oil prices.
Will Astana be pro cycling's first victim of oil price crash? Mideast teams from UAE and Bahrain all vulnerable to 30% collapse in prices. https://t.co/nwjOO7P7vB
— Andy Critchlow (@baldersdale) March 9, 2020
Astana is one of several WorldTour squads that have decided not to race through most of March due to fears of spreading the coronavirus. Unless the situation with the virus gets worse, Astana should be back racing by the start of the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. At press time, Angel Lopez is penciled in as the team’s protected rider in Catalunya.
Canada’s Hugo Houle is scheduled to race the WorldTour AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne on March 25, with E3 BinckBank Classic close on its heels two days later before Gent-Wevelgem on March 29.