No Vuelta a Espana defence for Fabio Aru

Lopez to lead Astana at Spanish grand tour

Astana have confirmed its nine-rider team for the Vuelta a Espana with defencing champion Fabio Aru a noticeable absentee. The 26-year-old rode the Tour de France for the first time in his career this year and saw his dreams of a top-ten result evaporate on the penultimate day, slipping from sixth to 13th.

Vincenzo Nibali, who won the Giro d'Italia in May and rode the Tour in support of Aru, is also missing from the start list although the Italian is currently recovering from a broken collarbone he sustained in the Olympic Games road race.

Colombian Miguel Ángel López leads the team's overall aspirations on his grand tour debut. The 22-year-old most recently rode the Olympic road race but hasn't raced in Europe since winning the Tour de Suisse in June. Lopez also finished third at Tour de Langkawi and fourth at the Tour de San Luis having won stages at both races and will be aiming to make his mark on the race. Compatriots Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) are also expected to battle for the overall honours.

Luis Leon Sanchez has been named in the team for his eighth career Vuelta and adds experience to the roster as the 32-year-old is likely to support Lopez in the mountains. The Italian quarter of Dario Cataldo, Davide Malacarne, Alessandro Vanotti and Giro winner Michele Scarponi will also support Lopez and add further grand tour experience. 

Dmitriy Gruzdev, 30, is the other Vuelta debutant in the roster and one of two Kazakhstani riders in the team alongside Andrey Zeits. Latvian national road and time trial champion Gatis Smukulis completed the nine-man team.

The 2016 Vuelta a Espana gets underway on August 20 with a 29.4km team time trial from Balneario Laias to Castrelo de Mino and features ten summit finishes.

Astana for the 2016 Vuelta a Espana: Dario Cataldo (Ita), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Miguel Ángel López (Col), Davide Malacarne (Ita), Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp), Michele Scarponi (Ita), Gatis Smukulis (Lat), Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) and Andrey Zeits (Kaz). 

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