Guardini and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Iglinskiy confirmed for Santos Tour Down Under
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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guardini and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Iglinskiy confirmed for Santos Tour Down Under

by VeloNation Press at 7:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under
 
Astana sending ambitious team to top Australian event

Andrea GuardiniWith hitting peak form for Milan - Sanremo being an important goal, Andrea Guardini will have his earliest-ever start to the season when he lines out in the Santos Tour Down Under in three weeks’ time.

The highly promising young Italian sprinter has moved from the Farnese Vini squad to the Astana team and has been selected to take part in the season-opening WorldTour event.

The squad’s new general manager Alexander Vinokurov has said that his team intends being in strong form for the event and will take it very seriously.

“Australia's season-opening World Tour race has grown tremendously over the years and the combination of great crowds, great weather and a great race make the Santos Tour Down Under a distinct priority for Astana Pro Team in 2013,” the Olympic champion stated. “Adelaide should watch out for Guardini, he will make his presence known at the finish.”

Guardini highlighted his speed when he clocked up a record eleven stage wins in just two participations in the Tour de Langkawi. He has already been confirmed as heading back to that race in 2013, and looks set to be in even better form after riding the Santos Tour Down Under.

Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli is confident that a very big year could be ahead for the 23 year old, not least because he outsprinted Mark Cavendish in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

“Guardini has all of the characteristics of becoming a world class sprinter,” he said. “His explosive jump and tremendous leg speed took him to more than twenty top ten finishes last season, including a win at the Giro d'Italia against the World Champion, and made him a highly desirable prospect for 2013. Astana is sending a strong squad in support of Andrea.”

He will be joined by six others on the squad for the race. Guardini is not the only big name to be selected, as Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Maxim Iglinskiy will also take part, as will the climber Valerio Agnoli.

Both could shine on the hillier stages of the race, with the new Corkscrew Hill and the summit finish at Old Willunga Hill suiting the uphill specialists and being likely to shape the final outcome.

Also selected for the team are former Giro d’Italia leader Enrico Gasparotto plus his fellow Italians Simone Ponzi and Tour of Beijing stage winner Francesco Gavazzi. According to the race organisers, Andrey Kashechkin is also likely to take part.

However that is currently very uncertain due to a dispute between the team and him over the non-signature of Astana’s internal regulations. Until such time as Kashechkin signs the document, he has been told that he will not be considered for selection for races.

Santos Tour Down Under Race Director Mike Turtur anticipates a big showing by the Kazakh team. “Astana sprinters such as Andrea Guardini will have ample opportunity to push for line honours, while team climber Valerio Agnoli will no doubt be looking to make his mark,” he stated.

Meanwhile the race organisers have confirmed two changes to previously-announced teams. Former world champion Alessandro Ballan’s recent crash has left him with no choice but to withdraw, the Italian suffering a broken left femur, fractured ribs and a punctured lung in the training ride fall. He had to undergo an operation to remove his spleen as a result of the accident.

He will be replaced by Ivan Santaromita in the BMC Racing Team lineup, while the Belgian rider Willem Wauters replaces Dutchman Wesley Kreder on the Vacansoleil DCM team lineup.

Racing begins in exactly three weeks’ time when the 51 kilometre People’s Choice Classic circuit race takes place. The WorldTour event begins two days later and runs for six stages, covering 758.5 kilometres.

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