Astana wins big in Belgium but serious financial problems emerge 

Posted on: February 24th, 2018

Alexandre Vinokourov Astana rider wages

Alexandre Vinokourov says Astana cannot pay rider wages: Michael Valgren wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for Astana in Belgium, but the team says its sponsor money has not been paid.


Vinokourov says Astana cannot pay rider wages


The Astana team has taken the first big one-day race of the pro season but it is also in financial crisis.

Michael Valgren attacked from a breakaway for a solo win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Astana had placed three in the breakaway, before working it over and finishing the job impressively.

But hours earlier team principal Alexandre Vinokourov said it was in financial crisis.

The former top pro, whose reputation is blighted by doping, said Kazakhstani government had not paid the funding it was supposed to.

He claimed no money had been paid since the start of the year. Furthermore, he claimed the team was running on cash in reserves rather than 2018 income.

He told Kazakhstani site the financial situation was grave. And if it wasn’t resolved quickly the team faced closure.

“We’re going to races with our own savings, the lads haven’t received their salaries,” he said.

“The situation is critical. There are 30 riders under contract, we have obligations to them.

“There are more than 50 people if you add in all the staff, including trainers, masseurs, doctors and mechanics.”

And he said even the day to day costs of going to racing were not now being met with 2018 income.

“Flights, accommodation on races, logistics; all these costs are urgent. Any postponement of funding would simply stop the work of the team.

“Ahead of the most important races of the season… All this would inevitably lead to the closure of the project after 13 years.”

Despite the problems, the team has started the season in flying form.

Valgren’s win today after 200km in Belgium comes after other top results. Alexey Lutsenko and Miguel Angel Lopez were 1st and 2nd overall at the Tour of Oman.

They also filled the top two placings on the queen stage to Green Mountain; Lopez winning. And in the same race Magnus Cort also claimed a stage win.

Moreover, Luis Leon Sanchez won Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia Costa Calida.



Today Valgren pulled clear in the closing stages in Belgium as part of a strongman’s breakaway. In that move were his team mates Lutsenko and Oscar Gatto.

Also present were Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step), Sep Vanmarcke (EF-Drapac) and Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems).

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was there too as were Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe).

And completing the escape were Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Łukasz Wiśniowski (Team Sky).


Late aggression pays off for podium

Valgren would attack with 2km to go. And when the group he pounced from stalled, he immediately looked like the race was his.

Vanmarcke jumped after him eventually. Wiśniowski, who had been dropped on the Muur van Gerardsbergen but got back on, also jumped.

In the end Valgren held on to win; Wiśniowski catching Vanmarcke and they were 2nd and 3rd respectively.

In the finishing straight what remained of the peloton caught the remainder of the breakaway. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) came through from the bunch for 4th and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) was 5th.

Irish champion Ryan Mullen was also riding. We had no news of his result at the time of writing.