Astana team leader Alberto Contador won most prestigious race Tour de France

July 26. KAZINFORM. BRUSSELS

Dimash Syzdykov

Astana team leader Alberto Contador won most prestigious race Tour de FranceAlberto Contador, a leader of ‘Astana’ team, won the 2010 Tour de France in Paris after an epic three-week battle, the official site of the race informs.

It’s his third career victory in the Tour and A. Contador appears to be the most stable racer in the Tour he already won it in 2007 and 2009.

Luxembourger Andy Scheleck from the Swiss team ‘Saxo Bank’ trailed 39 seconds and finished second in general classification and Russian Denis Menshov from the Dutch team ‘Rabobank’ finished third trailing more than 2 minutes. 

http://www.inform.kz/eng/article/2289504

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Kazakhstan Looks for Tour Lift

July 26. Wall Street Journal

By PAUL HANNON

How do you change perceptions of a little known country formed largely by a hugely popular movie that ridiculed it? For Kazakhstan, part of the answer is to win professional cycling’s biggest prize, the Tour de France.

While Alberto Contador moved closer to joining the pantheon of cycling greats by winning his third Tour in four years Sunday, capping a banner summer for Spanish sport, the celebrations in Kazakhstan were almost as great.

That is because Mr. Contador rides for the Astana team, named after Kazakhstan’s capital city, and bankrolled by the state-owned holding company, Samruk-Kazyna. Kairat Kelimbetov, Samruk-Kazyna’s chief executive officer, is responsible for the performance of 400 companies that between them account for almost half of the central Asia nation’s economy, and range from banks to oil and gas companies.

He is also the head of Kazakhstan’s cycling federation, and partly responsible for boosting Kazakhstan’s appeal to foreign investors. The €15 million ($19.3 million) that Samruk-Kazyna spends on the Astana team each year is intended to advance both those roles.

Many people are aware of Kazakhstan only as the home of the bewildered naif who stumbles through America in Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

Real-world Kazakhstan lies south of Russia, and neighbors Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. By contrast, cycling’s great contests—the Tour, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana—are firmly anchored in western Europe.

“Kazakhstan is trying to be part of the European space,” Mr. Kelimbetov said. “It has a program—the way to Europe. This image is a part of that.”

Mr. Contador won the Tour in the mountains, dueling with Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck in the Pyrenees. Cycling fans like nothing better than watching two strong riders trying to break each other on relentless climbs, and the battle between Messrs. Contador and Schleck on the Col du Tourmalet Thursday ranks among the best.

When Octave Lapize became the first rider to climb Tourmalet in 1910, he used what energy he still had left to tell Tour officials that they were murderers—”Vous etes des assasins.”

Cyclists still feel the same way, particularly given that they were forced to climb Tourmalet twice in the Tour’s centenary year, but it makes for great television, and that’s good for Astana.

“With the Tour de France, 30% of the time people talk about Astana, and that is part of the image of our country,” Mr. Kelimbetov said. “It opens up investment opportunities for our country. People know about Astana, they know about Samruk-Kazyna.”

While Mr. Contador is Astana’s most successful cyclist, half of its roster is Kazakh. The most successful among them is Alexander Vinokourov, known as Vino. His misfortune was to arrive when Lance Armstrong was at his peak, and Mr. Vinokourov’s best finish in the Tour was third place in 2003. But he won the Vuelta a Espana in 2006, before joining Astana in 2007. Like some cyclists at that time, he was tested positive for blood doping, banned for a year and announced his retirement in December 2007.

However, he returned to Astana and cycling this year, winning the Liege-Baston-Liege one-day classic, and played a big part in Mr. Contador’s victory in the Tour, during which he won stage 13.

“A lot of young guys want to be as famous as Vino,” Mr. Kelimbetov said.

Mr. Armstrong rode for Astana during his 2009 comeback year, as did fellow American Levi Leipheimer.

Unlike many of its neighbors in Central Asia, and like many European nations, Kazakhstan was hit hard by the financial crisis. Before the global financial crisis, a number of Kazakh banks borrowed heavily in international debt markets, and ran into trouble when access to that funding source dried up, forcing Samruk-Kazyna to come to their rescue.

Samruk-Kazyna now owns majority stakes in Bank Turan Alem, or BTA, and Alliance Bank, among others. But it will be some time before many of those banks will bring in the kind of price Samruk-Kazyna is aiming for, not least because the strong international banks it wants as buyers aren’t in a position to pay.Unlike many of its neighbors in Central Asia, and like many European nations, Kazakhstan was hit hard by the financial crisis. Before the global financial crisis, a number of Kazakh banks borrowed heavily in international debt markets, and ran into trouble when access to that funding source dried up, forcing Samruk-Kazyna to come to their rescue.

But the Kazakh economy has bounced back. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Thursday raised its growth forecast for 2010 to 4% from 3.5%, and expects the economy to expand by 5.3% in 2011.

“The economy in Kazakhstan is… swiftly recovering,” the EBRD said. “Medium-term prospects for Kazakhstan remain good as the large Kashagan oilfield is expected to start production in 2013 or even late 2012. There is also potential for expanding uranium, copper and grain production.”

The start of production in Kashagan oil field, will be a major step in a process that the government expects will see Kazakhstan’s oil production triple over the next 10 to 15 years, making it one of the world’s 10 largest oil-producing nations.

But it needs foreign investment to exploit that opportunity. According to the United Nations, foreign investment in Kazakhstan fell to $12.7 billion in 2009 from $15.8 billion in 2008. Cycling is major part of the government’s effort to market the Kazakh brand.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703294904575385092794275792.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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