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Astana funded for rest of season

PARIS -- Lance Armstrong's Astana team
will be able to ride in next month's Tour de France after the
Kazakh-funded outfit met their financial obligations for the
rest of the season.

"Thanks to Rinus Wagtmans, who acted as representative of
the Kazakh government, all parties have reached a mutual and
written agreement which gives riders and staff of the team
sufficient guarantees for the operation and functioning of the
team for the remainder of the season," Astana said in a
statement on Thursday.

"The mutual agreement resolves the financial difficulties
the team has endured since April 2009."

Astana had been given until close of business on Tuesday to
resolve their financial woes. Otherwise they would have faced
being stripped of their licence to race by the International
Cycling Union.

During last month's Giro d'Italia, seven-time Tour de
France winner Armstrong and all but one of his teammates
blanked out the sponsors' names on their shirts in protest at
the money trouble.

Team manager Johan Bruyneel said: "I appreciate everyone's
patience and professionalism during this difficult time and
support of the program.

"With only 16 days left to the Tour de France, the riders
need peace of mind. We are glad that we can continue with our
strong team."

The Astana roster on the Tour starting on July 4 in Monaco
is expected to be led by Armstrong and Spaniard Alberto
Contador, the 2007 winner and arguably the top stage-race rider
in the world.