Friday, April 12, 2013

It's Go Time For Astana

Last year Team Astana v 3.0 delivered excellent performance in the Ardennes classics, with victories in Amstel Gold Race (AGR) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège; these wins were delivered by Italian Enrico Gasparotto and Kazakh Maxim Iglinsky.

The squad may forever be associated with the controversial Alexandre Vinokourov -- seemingly unrepentant doper but brilliant rider who recently won London Olympic Gold -- who remains as General Manager. However, today's Astana is equally the team of Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli. He first became famous as the manager of Italian squad Carrera, which became Mercatone Uno as Claudio Chiappucci retired and Marco Pantani rose. From there he worked for Saeco, being the personal director of a young Damiano Cunego. Looking at his accomplishments as manager, it is clear that this is a man who knew how to win hilly classics and grand tours.

Maxim Iglinsky at the 2007 Tour de France.
Photo from Wikipedia Common, by McSmit (GNU Free Doc License 1.2).

This season's Team Astana v 3.1 added rising Italian star Vicenzo Nibali formerly of Cannondale. With a rising Peter Sagan and ever-popular Ivan Basso, Nibali moved to Astana partly to be his own grand tour contender. But Astana has proven itself with hilly classics contenders Gasparotto and Iglinsky.

In short, Nibali may have given up on classics ambition in order to pursue grand tours as a team leader

It is now up to Martinelli to use his squad to match their performance last year: don't forget that Nibali was second to Iglinsky in LBL, after a gutsy solo break that nearly succeeded. It will be too bad if Nibali were to give up on classics performance completely.

What's your prediction for Astana this year, will Martinelli's boys be able to step up to the challenge? Share your thoughts below.

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