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Astana riders get partial pay, Di Luca extends Giro lead

ASTANA'S Kazakh owners have paid part of the salaries owed to riders but the cycling team's future is still in doubt, general manager Johan Bruyneel has said.

Riders have obscured sponsors' names on jerseys in the Giro d'Italia to protest at not being paid. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has also threatened to take away Astana's Pro-Tour licence.

Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong, who does not receive a salary from Astana, are considering taking over the team.

"They've paid part of the money but the major part is still missing," Bruyneel told Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday. "I think before May 31 (a UCI deadline) they will complete payment then it is up to the UCI to decide on the future of the team."

Meanwhile, race leader Danilo Di Luca stormed to victory in the 10th stage of the crisis-hit Giro d'Italia on Tuesday to extend his overall advantage.

The Italian LPR rider broke away from the pack late during the 262km stage, the longest in the three-week race, which included this year's highest climb to the ski resort of Sestriere. The 2007 winner, who fought off doping allegations last year, finished the route in six hours 30 minutes and 43 seconds, ahead of compatriot Franco Pellizotti in second and Russian Denis Menchov.


Overall, Di Luca holds a one minute 20 second lead over Rabobank's Menchov with Australian Michael Rogers third.

The Giro was hit by controversy on Sunday when riders decided the route through the streets of Milan was too dangerous and it was agreed stage nine times would not count for the general classification.

Di Luca, who was booed by the Milan crowd, was keen to draw a line under the incident.

"We've returned to racing," he told reporters. "I've managed a really great breakaway. For me it was enough to do what I did and gain some seconds. It's a good advantage overall and today I've gained more than recent days so I'm satisfied. But we'll see."

Sunday's protest was partly prompted by Spain's Pedro Horrillo Munoz falling down a ravine on Saturday and being seriously hurt.

The world's second biggest stage race, in its centenary year, had to deal with more bad news early on Tuesday when a motorcyclist who followed the peloton with a photographer was killed in a crash on his way to the route in north west Italy.


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