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Luis León Sánchez returns to Astana Qazaqstan after one season away

Spanish veteran returns to former team in 2023 to play climber captain for Miguel Ángel López.

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Spanish veteran Luis León Sánchez returns to Astana Qazaqstan after just one year away from the Kazakh crew.

Astana confirmed Friday that Sánchez, 38, will be back for 2023 as it strengthens around Miguel Ángel López. The Spanish climbing domestique rode with Alexandr Vinokourov’s squad from 2015-21 before he switched to Bahrain-Victorious for 2022.

“I am incredibly happy to return to the Astana team, in fact, to return home. I have great feelings, having signed a contract with the team again, for me it is a great joy and a huge motivation,” Sánchez said.

“I want to thank Alexandr Vinokurov and the entire management for this opportunity. It happened that at the end of the last year we had to part ways, but I used this season as productively as possible, I worked hard, gained new experience, tried to improve professionally.”

Sánchez rode through 28 grand tours and scored four Tour de France stage victories in his 20-year career.

The Spaniard, who turns 39 next month, helped Astana top the Vuelta a España podium with Fabio Aru in 2015. He will likely captain López’s climbing core in 2023 as it refocuses after the retirement of Vincenzo Nibali.

“We all know Luis Leon Sánchez very well; we know his strengths and capabilities. He is a great team rider, a great assistant and a true professional. It was a pity to lose such a reliable rider last year, but that’s how the circumstances turned out. And now, I am very happy that there is an opportunity to invite him back to the team, to sign a contract with him,” Vinokourov said.

“You can rely on Sanchez in any race, you can be sure that he will give 100 percent for the sake of achieving team goals. Therefore, I can only add ‘welcome home, Luis Léon.’”

Bahrain-Victorious said goodbye to three other riders this week.

Slovenian duo Jan Tratnik and Domen Novak go to Jumbo-Visma and UAE Emirates respectively in previously announced transfers. Tour de Suisse stage winner Stephen Williams does not yet have a home for 2023 but has been linked to B&B.