The final UCI world tour event of the season will take place without one of the biggest teams in the professional peloton.
Team Astana have withdrawn themselves from racing in cooperation with the rules implemented by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).
This is after rider Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO, with teams who have voluntarily signed up to the MPCC required to withdraw from competition for eight days at the start of the next World Tour race after one of their riders has a positive drugs test.
This act carried out by the Kazakh run team may be seen as showing cycling moving in the right direction once again. However on closer analysis Astana have worked the suspension into their favour by delaying the decision on whether to counter analyse Iglinskiy’s test until after the prestigious monument classic Il Lombardia.
Astana rider Fabio Aru used this opportunity to his advantage and finished in 9th place to conclude a very successful season for the young Italian. Potentially more important, this delay of a self inflicted ban also meant Astana were able to compete in their home race ‘The Tour of Almaty’.
Guaranteeing the opportunity to showcase one of the biggest names in the sport and current Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, in what is otherwise a race that fails to attract the big name riders due to it taking place on the same day as Il Lombardia.
The Tour of Almaty without Astana would have angered the Kazakhstan government who sponsor the team and feel Astana appearing at their home race is the least of requirements needed for their investment.
Further consequences of missing the Kazakhstan race would not only have damaged Astana’s reputation within cycling and at home. It could also have a negative effect on Kazahkstan's two horse race with Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Doping cynics within cycling will be even more infuriated by the fact that Alexey Lutsenko of Astana won the Tour of Almaty race on Sunday, with Nibali coming home in 10th place. These same cynics suggest that Astana missing the Tour of Beijing isn't a harsh enough punishment, with the race at the end of a long season which requires large amounts of travel and that isn't even on the 2015 calendar.
Many world tour teams won’t be sending their high profile riders, outside of Movistar and Tinkoff who have Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador competing for first place in the end of season World Tour rankings.
Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France win was based on fantastic bike riding and great tactics, compared to previous winners who’s races were mainly won in the mountains, whether that be with or without the help of doping.
That victory in Paris improved Astana’s reputation for clean riding, however this latest setback will further their reputation as one of the most unpopular teams in cycling. Led by team manager and previous doper Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana still have a big cloud looming over them.