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VN news ticker: Astana-Premier Tech heads to Tour de la Provence, Arkéa-Samsic snubbed for Giro

Here's the news making headlines for Wednesday, February 10.

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Astana-Premier Tech to the Tour de la Provence

Astana-Premier Tech heads into the Tour de la Provence hunting for overall victory with riders Aleksandr Vlasov, Alexey Lutsenko, and 2019 champion Gorka Izagirre.

“I have been waiting for the start of the season with great expectation and impatience and I am happy to begin the year at the Tour de la Provence,” Izagirre said. “We are coming there with a very strong team and our goal is to try to win it.”

The trio heads up Astana’s lineup alongside Alex Anaburu, Omar Fraile, Ion Izagirre, and Harold Tejada. The team heads into the race having recently completed training camps in Teide and Benidorm, Spain. Vlasov is likely to be Astana’s protected rider this year. In 2020 Vlasov finished second overall after winning a stage and claiming the best-young-rider prize.

“I have very beautiful memories from last year when I debuted for Astana Pro Team and won my first race in the Astana jersey,” Vlasov said. “Honestly, I did not expect to be in such good form so early in the season, but I was really happy to bring that stage victory to the team and to step onto the final podium. This year I expect the race will turn out a bit differently for me as my main goal here is to feel the racing rhythm and to build the form. I am going to use the race as preparation towards my next races.”

Giulio Ciccone heads to Provence after nasal operation

Italian climbing ace Giulio Ciccone will lead Trek-Segafredo at this week’s Tour de la Provence, making his season debut after a challenging 2020 that saw him withdraw from the Giro d’Italia.

Ciccone, 26, said he underwent an operation on his nasal septum in the off-season to solve a breathing problem.

“I spent many days off the bike, something I’ve rarely done in the past,” Ciccone said. “I’ve recovered very well and in January I put a lot of kilometers into my legs with two training camps, one with the team and one alone. I don’t know how much I can be competitive at the moment, since I have no benchmark so far, but for sure, I’m ready to do my job.”

Ciccone said the Tour de la Provence will kick off a season that will see him get leadership opportunities at the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España — a major step up from his previous role on the team.

Ciccone will be accompanied by Koen de Kort, Niklas Eg, Emils Liepins, Bauke Mollema, Matteo Moschetti, and Kiel Reijnen at the Tour de la Provence.

Giro d’Italia announces wildcards, Nairo Quintana and Arkéa-Samsic excluded

RCS Sport announced the teams for this year’s edition of the Giro d’Italia. All 19 WorldTour teams received an automatic invite, as well as Alpecin-Fenix as the top-ranked UCI ProTeam. The three wildcard teams invited to the Italian grand tour are Bardani CSF Faizané, Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team, and Vini Zabù–Brado–KTM.

This sidelines the Arkéa-Samsic team of Nairo Quintana, meaning that the 2014 Giro champion will not have the opportunity to race the event this year. Also left out is Gianni Savio’s Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec team. Long a Giro staple and popular for its atypical, post-it note-style jersey, Savio’s team will miss its best chance at a grand tour in 2021.

Mark Cavendish debuts with Deceuninck-Quick-Step in Almería

Superstar sprinter Mark Cavendish will race for Deceuninck-Quick-Step for the first time this year at the Clásica de Almería on Sunday.  Having won the race in 2015 during his previous spell with the Quick-Step franchise, the 35-year-old will be on familiar territory in Andalusia this weekend.

“Like every rider in these times I am excited to get the season underway,” Cavendish said. “I’m even more excited to pull on the jersey of the ‘Wolfpack’ once again and race with the boys. The fact it will happen at an event which brings back a lot of beautiful memories makes it even more special.”

Tulsa Tough to decide on April 6 whether to proceed with original dates or whether to delay until September

The Tulsa Tough will decide on April 6 whether it will go forward with the originally-planned June 11 – 13 dates, or move the event weekend to September 17 – 19. The weekend which includes criteriums and gran fondos will make an announcement on the Tulsa Tough web site.

Iván García Cortina, Alejandro Valverde headline Movistar’s Almería lineup

Team Movistar will be sending former world champion Alejandro Valverde and newly signed Spanish talent Iván García Cortina to the Clásica de Almería on Sunday. The 183km race packs four categorized climbs, but is typically won by fast finishers in a bunch kick.

The race marks what Valverde says will be his final season, while the team is hopeful the race will kick-start a bid by new signing García Cortina for success in the upcoming northern classics. Despite seeing wins across the Ardennes races, the Spanish team has never truly been a factor on the pavé.

Fabio Aru makes debut with Qhubeka Assos at Tour de la Provence

Fabio Aru starts a fresh chapter in his career with his debut for team Qhubeka Assos at the four-stage Tour de la Provence, starting Thursday in France. The Sardinian will lead the team, and will have an opportunity to test his climbing legs on the third stage, with its ascent of Mont Ventoux to Chalet Reynard.

“I’m really happy and I can’t wait now to start my road season with my new team,” Aru said. “For sure I’ve worked really hard over the winter including participating in some cyclocross – which I thoroughly enjoyed.”