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Astana-Premier Tech steps away from Fabio Aru in favor of Aleksandr Vlasov and homegrown talents

Team manager says Astana-Premier Tech turned down approaches from Aru, leaving the Sardinian still without a contract for 2021.

There will be no homecoming party for Fabio Aru at Astana-Premier Tech next year.

The Sardinian climber is reported to have sought a return to former squad Astana-Premier Tech in 2021 as he scrambles for a contract in 2021. However, according to team manager Dmitriy Fofonov, the team’s future is with rising Russian climber Aleksandr Vlasov and other homegrown talents after the departure of Colombian GC guy Miguel Ángel López.

“Aru turned to us,” Fofonov told velo-club.net. “He told me that he had gained experience at UAE, that he made mistakes, and that he would like to find our family atmosphere again if there was an opportunity. But we could not follow up on his request.”

“We are now focusing primarily on developing young talents with whom we plan for the future. As was the case with Fabio and Miguel. Fabio came to us unprofessional and became a leader. The same thing happened with López.”

Aru rose to the top of the grand tour ladder through the middle of the last decade during a six-year tenure with Astana. Since parting ways with the squad to join UAE-Team Emirates, the former Vuelta a España champion has been plagued by illnesses and medical issues that have repeatedly derailed his grand tour ambitions

The 30-year-old is now staring down the back of a series of subpar seasons, including three abandons in five grand tour starts, and is out of contract for 2021. After rumors linking Aru to teams as far and wide as Alpecin-Fenix, Vini Zabù-KTM, and Bardiani CSF Faizanè, latest reports on tuttobici.web suggest that a deal with Qhubeka-Assos could be on the cards for next year.

Vlasov will take center stage in 2021. Photo: James Startt

With López now out of the picture, Fofonov stated that the reconfigured Astana-Premier Tech is all-in for Vlasov in 2021. The manager stated it was the departure of former team leader López that sealed the Russian’s loyalty when Ineos-Grenadiers came snooping after the 24-year-old’s signature.

“[Team boss] Alexander Vinokourov spoke with Vlasov before the Vuelta,” Fofonov said. “We could give him the opportunity following the departure of López to get a very strong role in the team. He still has a year of contract with us and he’s a smart boy. He is a rider who wins, very perfectionist. In two years he will be on the podium of a Grand Tour.”

Meanwhile, Danish veteran Jakob Fuglsang may shift focus toward the classics as Vlasov takes a seat at the top of Astana’s grand tour division.

Fuglsang has long provided Astana a leadership option at grand tours, and landed a career-best sixth overall at this year’s Giro d’Italia. Although Fofonov indicated that Fuglsang will continue heading the team in three-week races, he suggested the former Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia winner may pivot his focus more toward one-day racing in 2021.

And what happened with López?

The squad wanted to keep the 26-year-old on the books, but the price was too high. The Colombian leaves the team he turned pro with in 2015 to take a starring role at Team Movistar in 2021.

“A proposal was made to him, but it was not up to what was offered to him elsewhere,” Fofonov said. “From a purely sporting point of view, Miguel wanted to stay. But that’s not all. I’m not going to complain by saying that we have no money, we have our own budget! Some have more, everyone manages as they can.”