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Armstrong maneuvering to take over Astana team

LANCE Armstrong says he has "high interest" from sponsors if he takes over control of the Astana team.

The seven-time Tour de France winner also says he would do everything he could to keep Spanish rider Alberto Contador if he does end up owning the team.

Astana receives most of its financial support from Kazakh state holding company Samruk-Kazyna, but the Central Asian nation's economy has been badly hit by the global financial crisis.

The team has not paid its employees lately.

Armstrong is in Italy preparing for the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Venice tomorrow.

The American said that team manager Johan Bruyneel may take over the team if the riders continue to go unpaid.

Armstrong only gets money from endorsement deals. The International Cycling Union, the sport's governing body, is likely to warn the team if the riders go unpaid.

"It's not easy. I don't take a salary from the team but there are masseurs, mechanics and riders that have families and expect their signed contracts to be respected," Armstrong told yesterday's Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The Kazakhs are not responding on the telephone. Perhaps the situation will be sorted by the end of the month or the licence must be transferred to Bruyneel to take over the team from the middle of the season.

"I think this is the most logical solution."

The American cyclist even suggested his Livestrong cancer foundation might be able step in and bail out the team, but that seemed to be a long shot.

"As a ... non-profit organization, the Lance Armstrong Foundation would not be able to fund the day-to-day operational expenses of a for-profit endeavor," Katherine McLane, communications director for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday.


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