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Astana remembers Scarponi, welcomes six new riders for 2018

Team Astana dedicates its team launch to Michele Scarponi's memory while looking ahead to 2018 with six new riders.

Although Friday’s team presentation looked ahead to the 2018 season, Team Astana dedicated the beginning of its team launch to a video remembering Michele Scarponi who was killed by the driver of a car while training in 2017.

“There is no a secret for anyone, that the last season was a tough one for our team,” said the team’s general manager Alexander Vinokourov. “Not only because of big changes at the start of 2017, injuries and bad luck, but, first of all, because of a huge loss. We lost Michele Scarponi and he will always be in our hearts.”

Scarponi earned the team’s first UCI win in 2017 at stage 1 of Tour of the Alps and died shortly thereafter, April 22 in Fillotrano, Italy. From that point on, the team’s season was overshadowed by the tragedy of the 37-year-old’s death.

Astana riders managed to win four grand tour stages through the summer, with Fabio Aru in stage 5 of the Tour de France, Alexey Lutsenko in stage 5 of the Vuelta a España, and Miguel Angel Lopez in stages 11 and 15 of the Vuelta.

However, the team lost Aru to UAE Team Emirates in the transfer season, which irked Vinokourov.

“Aru had another optional year with us, and he never warned us of his desire to leave,” Vinokourov told L’Equipe. “We asked him what his plans were on numerous occasions, but he never answered us.”

Criterium du Dauphine winner Jacob Fuglsang and Lopez will likely be the team’s primary GC riders in 2018. they will be joined by talented climber Omar Fraile, who comes over from Dimension Data. The Spaniard won stage 11 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia and was king of the mountains at the Vuelta in 2015 and 2016.

Davide Villella followed up Fraile’s two polka-dot jerseys by winning the king of the mountains classification at the 2017 Vuelta while riding for Cannondale. The Italian is another key addition to Astana’s climbing corps.

Astana added four new riders in addition to Fraile and Villella: Yevgeniy Gidich (Kazakhstan), Jan Hirt (Czech Republic), Hugo Houle (Canada), Davide Villella (Italy), and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Denmark).

Notably, while a number of teams are slashing 2018 rosters to as few as 25 riders due to UCI rule changes, 30 riders will kit up in Astana’s pale blue for the coming season.

Team Astana 2018 roster

Pello Bilbao (Sp)
Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz)
Dario Cataldo (I)
Sergei Chernetckii (Rus)
Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den)
Laurens De Vreese (B)
Daniil Fominykh (Kaz)
Omar Fraile (Sp)
Jakob Fuglsang (Den)
Oscar Gatto (I)
Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz)
Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz)
Jesper Hansen (Den)
Jan Hirt (Cz)
Hugo Houle (Can)
Tanel Kangert (Est)
Truls Korsaeth (N)
Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kaz)
Miguel Ángel López (Col)
Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz)
Riccardo Minali (I)
Moreno Moser (I)
Luis Leon Sanchez (Sp)
Nikita Stalnov (Kaz)
Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz)
Michael Valgren (Den)
Davide Villella (I)
Artyom Zakharov (Kaz)
Andrey Zeits (Kaz).