Astana gains strength with signings of De La Fuente and Grivko
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Astana gains strength with signings of De La Fuente and Grivko

by Conal Andrews at 10:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

It’s still uncertain as to whether the Astana team will retain its ProTour licence and, with it, the services of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. A ruling from the UCI is expected in the near future; in the meantime, the squad is making clear moves to build its strength in anticipation of helping Contador take a third Tour victory next July.

Davide De La Fuente, the Spanish rider who two years ago won the most aggressive rider classification in the Tour, has been confirmed as heading to the team. The 28 year old will leave the Fuji Servetto squad in order to compete with the Kazkah outfit, and should provide valuable support for Contador. He has finished second overall in the mountains classification in both the Tour and the Vuelta a España, and is one of several riders that will back Contador when the road pitches upwards.

Also confirmed for the team is the ISD NERI rider Andrei Grivko. The 26 year old is a quadruple winner of the Ukrainian time trial championship and a past victor in Firenze-Pistoia. He’ll provide firepower on the flats but, as his fourth place in the mountains classification of the Giro d’Italia testifies, he’ll also be useful over lumpier terrain.

Other recent signings include Dimitri Fofonov, Maxim Gourov, Valentin Iglinskiy, Gorazd Stangelj and Paolo Tiralongo, while Leonardo Bertagnolli, Giampaolo Caruso, Allan Davis, Enrico Gasparotto, Marco Marzano, Vladimir Miholjevic, Xavier Tondo and double Giro d’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni have been linked to the team.

Should Contador end up staying, he will be backed by a core of other riders with whom he competed this year. These include Jesus Hernandez, Daniel Navarro, Benjamin Noval and, most likely, Haimar Zubeldia, while several Kazakh riders such as Assan Bazayev, Maxim Iglinskiy, Dmitriy Muravyev and, of course, Alexandre Vinokourov will also remain.

While it’s yet uncertain how the UCI will rule with regard to the ProTour licence, there seems a lot more energy about the team than before and this is a healthier sign for its future. Contador indicated recently that he is willing to stay providing the team gets the green light from the UCI. He’s reportedly been told by the Tour de France that either way, Astana will take part if he is part of the team.

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