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VN news ticker: Kazakh squad renames to Astana Qazaqstan Team, Alpecin-Fenix rider attacked by bike thieves in London park

Here's the news making headlines for Friday, October 8.

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Astana-Premier Tech renames to Astana Qazaqstan Team for 2022

Astana-Premier Tech will become Astana Qazaqstan Team next season.

The Kazakh crew confirmed Friday that it will rename after the departure of co-sponsor Premier Tech in the new year.

“Qazaqstan is the most accurate and correct name of Kazakhstan in its English transcription,” explained a statement Friday. “Qazaqstan is a kind of new brand of the state on the international stage, which is combining centuries-old traditions, language, culture and strategy of the country’s development in today’s world.”

“Starting from 2022 our cycling team will go on under the new name Astana Qazaqstan Team, a name which is very important to our country,” added Nurlan Smagulov, President of Kazakhstan Cycling Federation.

“The name of our state will appear on the cyclists’ jerseys and in the new team logo, and it will become a kind of sign of the continuation of traditions and, at the same time, a moment of change and renewal for the sake of two important goals: promotion of the image of our country all around the world and development of domestic cycling. The project is getting a second wind and is preparing for a new turn in its development.”

The name change is part of a major rejuvenation at the long-running squad.

Vincenzo Nibali, David de la Cruz, Gianni Moscon and Joe Dombrowski will all join the team in 2022, and rumors suggest Miguel Ángel López will also return to the Astana blue after his fallout with Team Movistar. Meanwhile, GC talent Aleksandr Vlasov, the Izagirre brothers, and the Canadian co-sponsor Premier Tech will all be on the exit.

Team manager Alexander Vinokourov will also be back with Astana Qazaqstan Team next season. The former racer was booted from the squad shortly before this year’s Tour de France before being reinstated less than two months later.

“I am happy that our team will continue its development under the new Astana Qazaqstan Team brand, and it is an honor for me to return to the leadership of this team as a general manager,” Vinokourov said. “For the past 16 years the Astana Cycling Project has been the hallmark of our country in the world of sports, and I would like to thank the leadership of Kazakhstan for many years of support and trust.”

Vinokourov also hinted at an expansion of the squad in the statement Friday, despite previous indications that the team was looking for added finance in the wake of Premier Tech’s departure.

“In the current period, preparations for the new season and the registration of the team in the top division are in full swing,” he said. “Beside this we are working on an additional project, which we will announce soon.”

Alberto Contador considered one-off comeback for 2020 Giro d’Italia

Alberto Contador ain’t done yet.

The retired Spanish ace revealed to La Gazzetta Dello Sport on Thursday that he is still in top shape – if not a little top-heavy – and that he contemplated making a racing comeback at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

“During the COVID lockdown I trained a lot,” Contador said. “My condition was the same as when I retired [in 2017]. I have a few more kilos, but I would have got rid of them by training.”

“At one point I thought about returning for one race – the 2020 Giro, but in the end, I put it out of my mind.”

Contador, 38, retired at the close of 2017 after amassing a huge haul of GC victories at the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a España. He now works managing the Eolo Kometa team with fellow retiree Ivan Basso.

“El Pistolero” proved he’s still got the edge on the bike earlier this season. After making the promise that he would ride from Madrid to Milan if his team won a stage at this year’s Giro, he promptly – if not reluctantly – covered the 1600km in just six days after Eolo-Kometa scored a standout win with Lorenzo Fortunato on the Zoncolan.

Contador also works for Spanish Eurosport and organizes his own Gran Fondo Contador on Spain’s “Costa Blanca.”

Alpecin-Fenix rider Alexandar Richardson attacked by bike thieves in London park

Alexandar Richardson was violently assaulted by a gang of bike thieves in Richmond Park, London, on Thursday. The British rider was out training when he was attacked by four men on motorbikes who knocked him to the floor before stealing his training bike.

The 31-year-old recounted the shocking experience in a post on his Instagram account Thursday evening:

“Pretty shocking experience today in Richmond Park. Was finishing my training around 3pm when two motorbikes with four men and balaclavas started following me. I knew exactly they wanted to take my bike and started to think what the best thing I could do was.

“I turned around at east sheen roundabout and started riding full speed to the cafe about 500 meters away. They simply rode one of the motorbikes into me at 60kph. I came off the bike and the first motorbike lost control. I held onto my bike however the second motorbike then dragged me and the bike along the floor for another 100 meters.

“After this they pulled out a 15-inch machete, at which point I thought better and let the bike go. I’m pretty cut up and bruised with a swollen hip but tomorrow is another day.”

Richmond Park is a large area in the south west of London that has become a hotbed of city-center riders seeking a quick escape from the London congestion. However, the rise in popularity of the park – and the increasing value of bikes being ridden there  –  has attracted a swathe of similar incidents in the local area, according to London media.

“Please be careful in the area and note this is becoming a common occurrence in parts of London,” Richardson added. “The police have taken their notes down as armed robbery and hopefully the criminals are found.”