Experienced Italian rider Michele Scarponi has signed for Astana, and will be spearheading the team’s charge for victory at the Giro d’Italia.
Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali won this year’s Giro d’Italia, but will now target the Tour de France, paving the way for Scarponi – the 2011 champion, following Alberto Contador’s demotion for a doping infraction – to challenge for the maglia rosa.
But general manager Alexandr Vinokurov, the Olympic road race champion, hopes Scarponi can also play a key role for Nibali at the Tour too.
“Our main goal next year is to build up a team that can come together around the massively complicated and extraordinarily dificult task of riding for Vincenzo Nibali and his shot at a podium, and why not, a win, at the Tour de France,” he said.
“Michele Scarponi has experience and strength that after the Giro we can go with him into the Alps and Pyrenees in July.
“It is worth an attempt, because the Tour is so important, and requires so much coordination and commitment. We need strong riders and we will need just as much good luck as anything else.”
Scarponi, who has signed a one-year contract at Astana, was expected to miss out on the leadership at former team Lampre-Merida after their surprise signing of world champion Rui Costa.
But Vinokurov insists the experienced 34-year-old will play a key role at the Kazakhstan team.
“Michele is a Giro leader, and he can be our captain in May,” he added.
“Our young Fabio Aru will ride with him, as will Alexey Lutsenko, and we see an environment where these very talented young riders will learn race leadership skills and strategies alongside Scarponi.”