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Astana named 2009’s best cycling team
Kazakhstan's cycling team Astana took first place this year in the team rankings of the International Cycling Union. Spaniard Alberto Contador, a member of the team, took first in individual rankings.
KAZAKHSTAN — On Oct. 17, following the Tour of Lombardy race in Italy, the 24th and final in the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar, Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador took first place in the 2009 UCI individual world rankings. His successful performance during the entire season helped Astana to the number one spot in team rankings.
Contador has a 2009 Tour de France victory under his belt, with 527 points. The number one cyclist of the 2008 season, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, came in second, with 483 points. Spain confirmed its superiority with the individual third place ranking of Samuel Sanchez of the Euskatel team, with 357 points.
Contador's contribution and that of the other members of the team, including Andreas Klöden, Lance Armstrong, Haimar Zubeldia and Levi Leipheimer, helped Astana become number one in the UCI world team rating. The Kazakh team collected a total of 1,100 points, passing its closest rivals, the French Caisse d'Epargne, by 52 points. Spain, not surprisingly, came in first in the world national rating, with 1,756 points.
While Astana’s contract with 26-year-old Contador will be extended for another year, he has expressed the desire on more than one occasion to move to another team.
There have been major changes in the team this year already, with the departure of many cyclists and their former general manager, Johan Bruyneel. On Oct. 15, Frenchman Yvon Sanquer, the new team leader, began working with Astana after several years with Festina.
On Oct. 20, Kazakhstan’s cycling backers guaranteed financial support for Astana to UCI. Its four-year licence expires at the end of 2010. As the team had financial difficulties this season, including delays in paying cyclists’ salaries, UCI demanded the guarantee ahead of time to ensure the problems would not be repeated next year. Kazakhstan State Fund Samruk-Kazyna became the new sponsor.
Earlier, the two-year disqualification of well-known Kazakh cyclist Alexander Vinokurov, who helped attract national sponsors and create Astana in 2006, ended last August.
[Today.kz, Astana-CyclingTeam.com, VeloSport.ru, UCI.ch]