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IDENTITY CRISIS AT ASTANA February 8, 2008

Posted by wetalkhablamos in team astana.
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Astana’s press officer will have spent this week fighting fires.

Since the organisers of Giro d’Italia 2008 announced on Saturday that the team has been left off the invitation list, there’s been a hot debate, in the media and on cycling forums.

RCS Sport cited various reasons for Astana’s exclusion, but the team’s doping problems in 2007 is most popular with pundits. “You don’t just wake up in the morning a changed person.”

Astana’s response has been measured. No over-reaction, just a quiet summation with an invitation to reconsider (and stealthy final jab with a sharp point). It’s not enough though.

Astana in 2008 is a new team, with new philosophy, and a largely new staff. Yet key people – like race organisers and the press – simply aren’t buying into it.

If the aim this year is to get Contador, Leipheimer and/or Klöden on the podium in Paris, Astana must change perceptions quickly. They have to win hearts and minds in Europe, so that ASO simply can’t afford to exclude the team in July.

Astana have every reason to be bold and confident, yet the logic of burying a crucial press event in New Mexico escapes me. It looked great fun, but it should have been in Europe, perhaps even Paris itself. Contador is the reigning maillot jaune, and there’s every reason to celebrate him. In France.

I can hear the sharp intake of breath across the pond. Believe me, this has nothing to do with US vs Europe. We all want the same thing. Alberto and his team must race in the Tour de France 2008. The key to this lies on this side of the Atlantic.

The team’s PR staff cannot handle this alone, they need the support of an experienced public relations agency.

They will have to deal first with identity. Maybe the team should be re-branded. New Astana, Astana 2008, whatever. As long as it draws an obvious line between old (bad) and new (good).

We need to see positive, exciting, good news stories about the team. Let the press in to see the team’s anti-doping programme in action. Creative profiles about the cyclists who, by the way, need PR support too. What about Kazakhstan? It has a hugely interesting culture and history. And give away a few bikes, let some children ride with the stars … whatever it takes.

Let’s hope they can turn the doubters round soon. Time’s running out for 2008.

Nicky, Edinburgh

If you’d like to post a response to this, you can email it to Nicky at rubierafans@hotmail.co.uk. Of course, you’re very welcome to leave a comment below.

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Comments»

1. Martha - February 15, 2008

What a crime. Perhaps the organizers are not aware that Team Astana is under new leadership. Nicky, kindly let them know, please. ;)

2. HOW ASTANA CAN GET BACK IN THE TOUR … « we talk/hablamos - March 12, 2008

[…] I’ve questioned before new Astana’s identity, and their need to win hearts and minds in France (see IDENTITY CRISIS). […]


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