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Astana-Premier Tech targeting Giro d’Italia glory with Aleksandr Vlasov

Squad targeting victory with young Russian sensation at this year's Giro while Jakob Fuglsang prioritizes Ardennes and Olympics.

Astana-Premier Tech has a new Canadian co-sponsor and fresh Italian ambition going into 2021.

For the first time in its 15-year history, the Kazakh squad welcomes aboard a co-title backer in 2021 and is looking to blow a fresh wind into its grand tour efforts with a challenge for the Giro d’Italia with Aleksandr Vlasov.

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“For some years we are missing a victory in a grand tour,” said team boss Alexander Vinokourov. “The last time was when we won the Giro d’Italia with Vincenzo Nibali in 2016. I have a dream to come back on a winning way at the grand tours and to win another big race.

“The Giro this year looks good for us so we will see,” Vinokourov said during an online team presentation Sunday. “As I’ve said to the guys, we would have a great season if we win 30 races and the Giro.”

Astana-Premier Tech’s grand tour deck has taken a shuffle over the off-season as long-time captain Miguel Ángel López joined Movistar and Danish veteran Jakob Fuglsang calls time-out on his GC ambitions. In their wake, rising talent Vlasov will be stepping up to lead the team at the Giro in his sophomore WorldTour season.

Vlasov burst into the WorldTour last year with four top-10 finishes at the Vuelta a España and victories at the Giro dell’Emila and Mont Ventoux Dénivéle Challenge. This year, the 24-year-old is looking to carry his momentum from Spain into a tilt at the Giro’s overall, where he will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his early abandon in last year’s race.

“The Giro d’Italia is my main goal for the season,” Vlasov said. “I already got a taste of grand tours at last year’s Giro, which was not the grand tour start I was hoping for, and the Vuelta. I am really motivated to return to Italy and try to give my best. Beside the Giro d’Italia, the Olympic Games is an event to focus on.”

One-day focus for Fuglsang

Fuglsang won Il Lombardia last August and is on the hunt for more monuments. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Having notched a career-best sixth overall at last year’s Giro, Fuglsang stated late last year that he has parked his grand tour ambitions.

Instead, in 2021, the Dane is on the hunt to fill out his prolific one-day palmarès, which already includes victories at Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 35-year-old will line up at the Tour of Flanders for just the second time in his 15-year career before setting his sights on the hilly classics.

From there, Fuglsang will hunt for stages at the Tour de France before targeting gold in what will likely be his final chance for Olympic glory at the Tokyo Games.

“I will take on the Tour de France to get ready for the Olympic Games, where I hope to change Rio’s silver into Tokyo’s gold medal,” he said. “Of course, it will be great to collect at least one stage win at the Tour de France, but my main focus will be the Olympic road race. I am happy with my calendar and think the Tour route, like the parcours in Tokyo, suits me to achieve something great.”

The team also confirmed that Kazakh national champ Alexey Lutsenko will ride both the cobbled and Ardennes classics alongside Fuglsang before following his veteran colleague to the Tour and Olympics.