Despite announcing that Franco Pellizotti would ride for the team in 2014, Astana has confirmed that the Italian will not be part of the team for the coming season.
"It's with some sadness and a heavy heart that we will not be racing with Franco Pellizotti next year," Astana's general manager Alexandr Vinokurov said on the team's website.
Vinokurov announced in August that Pellizotti would be joining the team but Monday's team statement indicates the contract between the Italian and the Kazach team was never formally signed. "Negotiations with Pellizotti have always been optimistic and forthright, but in the end we agreed that we could not go forward with a contract to race with Astana Pro Team in 2014," Vinokurov said.
The news of the signing of the former Italian champion on August 1 of this year caused somwhat of a stir. Astana became a full member of the MPCC - the movement for credible cycling - this year and the MPCC regulations state that a rider can not compete two years after the last day of his suspension. Pellizotti's suspension which was based on anomalies in his biological passport ended on the 2nd of May in 2012 which means he would not be able to compete for the Kazach team until the 2nd of May of 2014.
Sports director Giuseppe Martinelli told Cyclingnews in August that signing Pellizotti represented a "legitimate issue. "I'll take this up with team manager Alexandr Vinokurov and come up with a solution to this real issue in the next few days."
The team decided to not let Pellizotti ride until he formally could but to keep him on the team for the remainder of the 2014 season. “We’ve decided to respect the MPCC rules and so Franco will only start racing on May 2,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told Cyclingnews.
“We’ve explained to him that it’s important for the team to respect the rules of the MPCC and so he’ll miss the early months of the season but ride the Giro d’Italia and then be at 100 per cent for the Tour de France. He’s a professional and knows how to prepare for big races and so it won’t be a problem. Lots of riders only start their season in late March. He’ll miss two months, not two years. It won’t be a problem.”
The team however backtracked on these earlier statements that the Italian would be part of the team next season saying today that Astana and Pellizotti will part ways. "Pellizotti is in the prime of his career. On a personal level we respect his choices. We wish him success and good luck in the next season," Vinokurov concluded the team's statement.
Without Franco Pellizotti Astana is down to 27 riders creating opportunities for riders without a contract for next season like Igor Antón, Luis Léon Sánchez, Samuel Sanchez and Chris Horner.