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Aru to lead Astana at Giro, Vuelta in 2017

With the departure of Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru takes over as the top GC rider of the Kazakhstan-registered squad.

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It’s all for the Giro d’Italia for Fabio Aru as the Astana team undergoes some major changes for 2017.

Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov confirmed that the Italian star will take aim at the pink jersey next season and steer clear of the Tour de France. The Vuelta a España is also on Aru’s docket as he takes over leadership of the Kazakhstan-registered team following the departure of Vincenzo Nibali and other key riders.

“I believe we had a good season,” Vinokourov said. “We won the Giro with Nibali, and a lot of other races.”

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Vinokourov and other team brass met in Kazakhstan over the weekend to outline the coming season’s goals. With Nibali heading to the new Bahrain – Merida squad, more pressure will be on Aru. Rather than send him back to the Tour, where he rode to 13th overall in his Tour de France debut this summer, Aru will return to the Giro and Vuelta. Vinokourov confirmed the team will rally around Olympic silver medalist Jakob Fuglsang and the now-injured Miguel Angel López for the Tour.

“It’s a beautiful Giro,” Aru said at the Giro presentation. “With the final week and last stage, a time trial, it’s going to keep everyone guessing until the end. I didn’t expect this hard of a Giro.”

In six grand tour starts, Aru has punched into the top 5 four times, including his breakout victory in the 2015 Vuelta. After riding to third in the 2014 Giro and second in 2015, Astana is hoping the 26-year-old can deliver the pink jersey for the Giro’s centenary next year.

Vinokourov also outlined major changes for its roster, confirming the team will line up with 28 riders in 2017, including several new arrivals. Moreno Moser and Matti Breschel (Cannondale – Drapac), Oscar Gatto, Jesper Hansen and Michael Valgren (Tinkoff), Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA), and Riccardo Minali (Colpack) are among the new faces for 2017.

In addition to Nibali and Valerio Agnoli heading to Bahrain, others leaving include Lars Boom (LottoNL �� Jumbo), Eros Capecchi (Etixx – Quick-Step), Diego Rosa (Sky), Gatis Smukulis (Delko Marseille KTM), and Andrea Guardini (TJ Sports).

The team confirmed its base by extending with Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert, López, and its core of Kazakh riders, including Alexey Lutsenko.

Vinokourov also confirmed the team’s trademark turquoise blue will remain and the team’s bikes will change from Specialized to Argon 18.

“During the meeting, the team will get an updated look,” Vinokourov said. “Giordana will take over for Moa, and we will make a presentation in the nation’s capital on December 11 to mark the 25th anniversary of the independence of our nation. It should be a big event.”