The Astana team have confirmed that Fabio Aru will ride the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2017, highlighting the Italian Grand Tour as the most important race of their season. Jakob Fuglsang and Miguel Angel Lopez will enjoy dual leadership at the Tour de France in July.
After a trying Tour de France debut this year and the announcement of a Grande Partenza for the 2017 Giro in his home region of Sardinia, Aru was always likely to return to the corsa rosa, where he was 3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2015. That was confirmed at the weekend as the team's management gathered in Astana, the Kazakh capital, to look back on the 2016 season and outline their plans for 2017.
"It became known that the main goal of the team will be the Giro d'Italia, a Grand Tour where Fabio Aru, an Italian captain of the team, will go on his marks," read a statement from the team.
"The sports directors are planning to appoint Jakob Fuglsang, a silver medalist of the last Olympiad and Miguel Angel Lopez, a Colombian rider, as the captains at the Tour de France. As for the Vuelta a España, according to preliminary information, Fabio Aru will once again go on his marks."
Aru built his 2016 season around the Tour de France but struggled throughout and cracked on the road to Morzine on the penultimate day, finishing 13th overall at nearly 20 minutes down on Chris Froome. His 2017 programme sees him revert to the Giro-Vuelta double that worked so well for him in 2015, when he was second in Italy and victorious in Spain.
Fuglsang, seventh overall at the 2013 Tour de France, recently told Cyclingnews he hoped to lead the team at next year's Tour de France, saying: "I would like to try one more time and get the chance to try and get something out of it."
For Lopez, winner of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2014, it will be a case of building experience. The 22-year-old Colombian demonstrated his talent this season by winning the Tour de Suisse and Milan-Turin, but his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España was derailed by a heavy crash on stage 6. He recently fractured his left tibia while training at home in Colombia.
"I think we had a successful season," said general manager Alexander Vinokourov, looking back on a 2016 campaign that yielded 34 victories.
"We won a Grand Tour with Vincenzo Nibali and won a large number of victories in other races. Especially pleasant fact is that seven victories were won by our Kazakhstani riders."
The meeting saw the team effectively finalise its 2017 roster, with 28 riders on the books, though the management are considering bringing through a Kazakhstani neo-pro from one of the feeder teams.
Giordana will replace Moa as kit suppliers, and the turquoise jersey will have a "more modern design", while the bikes, as already reported, will be supplied by Argon 18, who take over from Specialized.
The official annual team presentation will take place in Astana on December 11 in honour of the 25th anniversary of Kazakh independence.