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Astana continue overhaul by signing Riabushenko, Velasco and Gazzoli

Astana riders train ahead of the Tour Down Under
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The renewal of the Astana Qazaqstan roster continues apace with the announcement of three further new arrivals in 2022, as Alexandr Riabushenko joins from UAE Team Emirates and Simone Velasco arrives from Gazprom-RusVelo, while the squad have also signed talented Italian neo-professional Michele Gazzoli.

Astana have been busy on the transfer market following the restoration of Alexandre Vinokourov as general manager and confirmation of the departure of 2021 co-sponsor Premier Tech. 

In recent weeks, it has been confirmed that Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Ángel López would return to the team, while Astana have also signed Gianni Moscon, Leonardo Basso, David de la Cruz, the USA's Joe Dombrowski, Sebastian Henao, Valerio Conti and Antonio Nibali.

The latest trio of signings were announced on Friday morning as the riders gathered in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany for pre-season meetings.  

Riabushenko arrives at Astana after four years in the WorldTour with UAE Team Emirates. The Belarusian won the Coppa Agostoni in 2019, when he also placed fourth in the European Championships road race. His 2021 campaign was disrupted by a fractured hand at the Tour of the Alps.

“After four years in one team I feel like it is time to get a change in my career, to do a new step towards my development as a rider. I can say that I really like Astana and I was cheering for this team since I was junior,” said Riabushenko.

Velasco has already raced for Bardiani-CSF, Wilier and Gazprom-RusVelo during his six-year professional career, and his biggest triumph came at the start of the 2019 season when he won the Trofeo Laigueglia. He won a stage of the Tour du Limousin this season.

“Simone Velasco is going to step into the WorldTour with our team and I think, this new chapter of his career will motivate him,” said Vinokourov. “We saw him improving fast over the last few years and it seems that Velasco can strengthen our one-day race direction.”

Astana Qazaqstan also confirmed the signing of Gazzoli, who placed fourth in the under 23 road race at last month’s World Championships in Leuven, a race won by his Italian teammate Filippo Baroncini. He raced for Continental squad Colpack in the past two seasons and he won the GP Liberazione this year.

“I am excited with the chance to ride side by side with the biggest stars as Vincenzo Nibali and Gianni Moscon, for example,” said Gazzoli. 

“My main goal for the new year is to learn as much as possible and to help the team in the best possible way. I have a dream to start at the Giro d’Italia and I hope I’ll do it one day, but right now I just hope to start the season with the team and to keep on working day by day.”

Tuttobici reported on Friday that Astana have also added two members to their management team in 2021, with Mario Manzoni and Orlando Maini arriving as directeurs sportifs.

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