The Astana Continental Team has had a relatively short yet eventful history. The was established in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan in 2012. The city already had a very successful team in the elite level of the UCI World Circuit, called the Astana Pro Team. Astana Continental team was established primarily to compete in the lower divisions of the UCI cycling tour and promote sports cycling in the country. As a junior feeder club to the Astana Pro Team, the main emphasis of the Astana Continental team is on creating a strong core of experienced Kazakh cyclists who can compete on the international stage at the highest level. As a junior team, all its riders belong to the U23 category, and hail predominantly from Kazakhstan.
Both Astana based teams are mainly sponsored by Samruk- Kazyna, a powerful joint stock company wholly owned by the Government of Kazakhstan. Samruk-Kazyna has been the main sponsor of the very successful Astana Pro Team ever since its inception in 2007, speaking about sponsoring, a recent argue between 2 Dutch cycling teams has been in the news as seen in this article (Dutch Language). They are a sovereign wealth fund with total estimated assets in excess of $100 billion and holdings in numerous companies in diverse sectors of the Kazakh economy like railways, energy and communications. The Astana Cycling teams have been successfully promoted by the Government of Kazakhstan as a great vehicle for raising the visibility of the country on the international stage. Both Astana teams share the same sky blue-gold racing livery, representative of the Kazakh national flag. In its early years, the team was managed by Dmitri Sedoun, a key member of the Astana Pro Team management.
Notable Team Members and Victories
Ever since their inception in 2012, the Astana Continental Team has had a core roster of young and promising Kazakh cyclists with just one or two members of foreign origin. Over the years, Alexey Lutsenko , Ruslan Tleubayev, Nikita Stalnov, Marco Banfatto, Maxat Ayazbayev and Grigory Shtein have been notable top scorers. The Astana Continental Team has had the following notable results since 2012.
Overall 1st in the Saguenay U23, 2012, (Arman Kamyshev)
Overall 1st in the Tour of Bulgaria, 2012, (Maxat Ayazbayev)
Overall 1st in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, 2014, (Ilya Davidenok)
The team has also secured numerous stage victories in races across the globe, like the Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional, Tour de Normandie, Tour of China, Giro della Valle d’Aosta and La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Name Changes Over the Years
Like so many other teams in the international sports cycling circuit, the Astana Continental Team has also had a few doping related infractions and controversies. The first major issue related to doping the team’s history occurred in 2014. Three members of the team tested positive anabolic steroids, resulting in their suspension. As a direct fallout of this incident, the whole Astana Continental Squad was suspended by the Kazakh Cycling Federation while the team manager Dmitri Sedoun was fired from his post.
This led to the first name change and the team competed under the banner of Seven Rivers Cycling Team (UCI Team Code: SIL) in 2015. The new roster of 10 riders included 6 previous members of the Astana Continental Team. They participated in the Tour of Singkarak, the East Bohemia Tour and the 2015 U23 World Championships in the US under this name.
But the ponderous new name would prove short lived, lasting only for the duration of the 2015 season. Whatever the reasons for adopting such a long winded name in the first place, good sense seems to have prevailed in the heads of the Astana cycling program with the turn of the year. 2016 saw the team re-branded afresh as the much more approachable Astana City (UCI Team Code: TSE). The current Astana City roster retain a majority of the riders from the Seven Rivers Cycling Team.
In its 2016 avatar of Astana City, the Astana Continental Team continues to ply its trade in the 3rd division of the UCI pro cycling calendar. The team continues to be the feeder club for Astana Pro Team, along with their neighbours, the Astana based Vino 4ever SKO. Incidentally, Vino 4ever SKO is managed by Alexander Vinokourov, ex member and manager of the Astana Pro Team and an Olympic Gold Medallist. The Astana Continental Team is currently managed by Seamus Harford and Alexander Nadobenko. Promising young riders in the present roster include Nikita Stalnov, Gregory Shtein, Galym Akhmetov, Vadim Galeyev, Nurbolat Kulimbetov and Maxim Satlikov.
The current roster is populated entirely by young Kazakh U23 riders. The latest results of the Astana Continental Team (2016) include:
34th in the World Championships U23 Road Race
50th in the World Championships U23 ITT
10th in the Tour of China – Teams Classification
The team is currently ranked 74th overall internationally in PCS rankings, which includes teams from the World Tour, the Pro Continental and the Continental tours of the UCI.