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"Michele is a Giro leader, and he can be our captain for Astana Pro Team in May. Our young Fabio Aru will ride with him, as will Alexey Lutsenko," Vinokourov says

Photo: Sirotti






01.11.2013 @ 09:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After months of speculation, Astana has confirmed that they have signed Michele Scarponi on a one-year contract. The veteran Italian will lead the Kazakh team in the Giro d'Italia before going on to play lieutenant role for Vincenzo Nibali in the Tour de France.


Last week La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Michele Scarponi had agreed terms with the Astana team to join the Kazakh squad in 2014 and now the team has confirmed the signing of the 2011 winner of the Giro d'Italia. The announcement comes after months of uncertainty about the future of the current Lampre-Merida rider.


Last winter Scarponi served a three-month ban for his involvement with banned doctor Michele Ferrari which prompted co-sponsor Merida to ask the team management to put Scarponi on inactive status in the early part of the season. In late February, the parties made an agreement that allowed Scarponi to return to competition but rumours surfaced that he would leave the team at the end of the team.


Apparently, the relationship improved as Scarponi was reportedly considering to stay at his current team in 2014 but he ultimately decided to move to Astana. The 34-year-old has signed a one-year contract with the Kazakh team.


Scarponi won the 2011 Giro d'Italia - after the disqualification - and has made the Italian grand tour the centrepiece of his centrepiece of his season since 2008 when he returned from suspension following the involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal. He finished 4th in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and with team leader Vincenzo Nibali focussing on the Tour de France, Scarponi has been promised a captaincy role in the Giro by his new team.


"Michele is a Giro leader, and he can be our captain for Astana Pro Team in May," manager Alexandr Vinokourov said. "Our young Fabio Aru will ride with him, as will Alexey Lutsenko, and we see an environment where these very talented young riders will learn race leadership skills and strategies alongside Scarponi as he rides for a podium at the Giro d'Italia next year."


First and foremost, Scarponi has, however, been signed as a key lieutenant for Nibali in the Tour and the 34-year-old will head from Italy to France to form part of what shapes up to be a very strong team around the current Giro captain. Scarponi will join forces with the likes of Franco Pellizotti, Jakob Fuglsang, Janez Brajkovic, Paolo Tiralongo and Tanel Kangert to form what is undoubtedly one of the strongest Tour de France line-ups.


"Our main goal next year is to build up a team that can come together around the massively complicated and extraordinarily dificult task of riding for Vincenzo Nibali and his shot at a podium, and why not, a win, at the Tour de France," Vinokourov said. "Michele Scarponi has experience and strength that after the Giro we can go with him into the Alps and Pyrenees in July. It is worth an attempt, because the Tour is so important, and requires so much coordination and commitment. We need strong riders and we will need just as much good luck as anything else."


The decision to designate Scarponi the captaincy role in the Giro puts the race schedule of Fuglsang up in the air. The Dane finished 7th in this year's Tour de France and recently told Cyclingnews that he would like to do the Giro-Tour double in 2014.


With the signing of Scarponi, the Astana team for 2014 is complete. In addition to Pellizotti (who will not start racing until May 2) and Scarponi, the team has signed Lieuwe Westra, Mikel Landa, Valentin Iglinskiy and Daniil Fominykh while Asaan Bazayev (retires), Simone Ponzi (rumoured to be joining the current Vini Fantini team), Kevin Seeldraeyers (rumoured to be joining Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Egor Silin (Katusha) and Andrey Kashechkin will leave the team.



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