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Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) was voted most combative
Veteran Italian boosts Nibali's Tour de France squad
Michele Scarponi will ride for Astana in 2014, leading the team at the Giro d'Italia and then helping Vincenzo Nibali take on Chris Froome at the Tour de France.
Scarponi has yet to sign his contract but Cyclingnews understand that the rider agreed terms and will probably sign a contract later this week. Astana will then make an official announcement. Scarponi rode for Lampre-Merida this season but the team showed scant interest in resigning him after securing the service of new world champion Rui Costa.
Scarponi's decision and the UCI deadline of October 21 for teams to registered their ten leading riders, means Ivan Basso will remain at Cannondale in 2014. He was considered as a possible alternative to Scarponi at Astana but his future is entwined with the future of the Italian team and the possible arrival of Tinkoff as partial team owner and title sponsor.
Scarponi will strengthen the Astana team for Grand Tours and put the team on an equal footing to Team Sky. Scarponi is expected to be Nibali's last man in the mountains as Richie Porte is for Froome.
Astana is ready to build its team around Nibali for the 2014 Tour de France. Paolo Tiralongo, Valerio Agnoli and Fabio Sabatini are all part of Nibali's inner circle, with Jakob Fuglsang, Tanel Kangert and Jani Brajkovic also expected to be part of the Tour de France squad.
New arrivals include Mikel Landa and Franco Pellizotti. However it seems the Italian has yet to sign his contract and his role in the team could be affected by the rules of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible. The MPCC rules do not allow teams to sign riders who have served a doping ban during the last two years. If Astana decides to respect the rule and stay in the MPCC, Pellizotti can only legally be a part of the Astana team as of May 2, 2014 (two years after his ban) and not January 2014.
Scarponi was banned for three months last winter after it emerged he carried out a test with Dr. Michele Ferrari in 2011. He is also implicated in the drawn out Padova police investigation into Dr. Ferrari but the MPCC rule only covers bans that last longer than six months.
Scarponi confessed to working with Dr. Fuentes during the Operacion Puerto doping scandal and served an 18-month ban after confessing to being one of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes clients. However that banned ended in 2008.
Scarponi turned 34 in September but rode consistently well in 2013, finishing fourth in the Giro d'Italia, 15th in the Vuelta a Espana, third at the Overall Volta a Catalunya and 5th at Liège–Bastogne–Liège. He played a key role helping Nibali at the recent world road race championships in Tuscany.