• The Astana team started the Abu Dhabi Tour with uncertainty. (Getty)Source: Getty
Astana riders have been reassured in the wake of a report that the WorldTour team is at “critical” risk of financial collapse.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
25 Feb 2018 - 10:02 AM  UPDATED 25 Feb 2018 - 10:03 AM

Riders apparently received emails from team management yesterday morning, stating “everything will be okay” after general manager Alexander Vinokourov told Kazakhstani media on Friday that his squad’s future was in doubt.

Vinokourov in a Vesti.kz report said that his outfit had not received government funding since the start of this year and was so dipping into savings, apparently claiming staff had not been paid.

Contrary to that, Astana riders competing at the Abu Dhabi Tour yesterday said they had received their monthly salaries.

“I don’t know what’s going on but at the moment I get paid as normal. We just have to wait and see,” Jesper Hansen said.

“We got an email this morning saying everything will be okay, and I believe them.”

Vinokourov was at the Tour of Oman earlier this month, showing no sign of stress at the race his outfit almost marked a clean sweep at taking the overall, team and best young rider classifications, as well as a stage victory.

Hansen, who joined the squad last season from the now defunct Tinkoff set-up, said there’d been no obvious signs of financial stress or struggle since he signed.

The 27-year-old, from Denmark, is set to support Jakob Fuglsang at the Tour de France in July.

Astana has not validated Vinokourov’s reported claims with an official statement. There’s been no clear indication as to why government funding may have been delayed.

“Flights, accommodation on races, logistics – all these costs are urgent, and any postponement of funding would simply stop the work of the team, and ahead of the most important races of the season,” Vinokourov was quoted as saying. “All this would inevitably lead to closure of the project after 13 years.”

The affair adds to cycling’s ongoing financial woes that have resulted in endless debate on the business model of the WorldTour but no real effective outcome.

Jonathan Vaughters initially resorted to crowdfunding last year when he faced the threat of collapse, eventually securing a naming rights sponsor in EF Education First.

It is understood BMC Racing must find additional financiers this season to continue beyond 2018.