Davide Villella signs for Astana

Italian leaves Cannondale-Drapac after four seasons

Davide Villella will leave Cannondale-Drapac for Astana in 2018 after signing a two-year deal with the Kazakhstani team. The 26-year-old turned professional with the original, Italian Cannondale set-up in 2014 and remained when the squad merged with Slipstream Sports the following year.

Villella's lone professional victory came at last year's Japan Cup but the Italian has produced some impressive displays in one-day races, including fifth place at the 2016 Tour of Lombardy. He also impressed at the Giro dell'Emilia and Coppa Sabatini in 2013 while riding as a stagiaire with Cannondale.

"After four seasons in one team, I feel like I came to a moment when I have to change something to keep on moving ahead," Villella said.

"In Astana Proteam I see an opportunity to continue my progress as a rider. Astana is a team which is always in front, fighting for the victory, and I am happy to become a part of this project in the next season. I want to thank Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team for a unique opportunity I was provided and for all these four and a half fantastic years on the high level of cycling."

Villella's departure for Astana was announced on the same morning that his fellow countryman Formolo confirmed that he would be leaving Cannondale-Drapac for Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of the season. The Cannondale squad has also lost the promising Alberto Bettiol to BMC and Kristijan Koren to Bahrain-Merida, though it is expected that Rigoberto Uran, second overall at last month's Tour de France, will sign a contract extension to remain at the team.

Villella arrived in the professional ranks after a glittering amateur career that saw him win the prestigious Giro della Valle d'Aosta ahead of Davide Formolo in 2013. He also added the amateur Tour of Lombardy at season's end.

Astana manager Alexandre Vinokourov said that he saw Villella’s future in the hilly classics, but is aware, too, that the Italian can offer useful support to a GC leader in the mountains. It remains to be seen whether Villella's near contemporary Fabio Aru will be that leader in 2017. The Sardinian has been linked with a move to UAE-Emirates, while Thursday's edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport floated the prospect of Astana prising Nairo Quintana away from his contract with Movistar.

"Davide is a young rider with a big potential in the classic races, and he proved it last year at Il Lombardia," Vinokourov said.

"I am sure, in Astana Team Villella will get a chance to reach some big results, both in one-day and stage races. Besides, he is a strong team rider and this is very important for Astana Proteam, which is always focused and will focus on the Grand tours."

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