Astana names nine amidst controversy

Team Astana has named its nine men that will be competing in the three-week Tour de France, July 7 - 29, amidst recent investigations of two of its potential tour riders. Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov will lead the Swiss team that includes compatriots Maxim Iglinsky and Andrey Kashechkin, German Andreas Klöden, Russian Serguei Ivanov, Spaniards Antonio Colom and Daniel Navarro, Swiss Gregory Rast and Italian Paolo Savoldelli.

Russian Guennadi Mikhailov and Spaniard José Antonio Redondo were named as reserves.

Under likely ASO pressure and the ProTour code of ethics the team left at home German Matthias Kessler (winner of 2006 Tour stage 3) and Italian Eddy Mazzoleni (super-domestique). Both riders were likely team candidates but Mazzoleni, third in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, is being heard by his federation as part of the Oil for Drugs investigation while recently revealed results from a test taken on April 24 listed the German's A-sample as positive for testosterone.

Nonetheless, Astana will have a powerful squad that can take a serious swipe at the overall classification with Vino and Klöden. In his sixth participation of the Tour 33 year-old Vino will make what could be his last attempt at the overall win. He will face strong rivals like Valverde, Leipheimer and Evans but with a third overall in 2003 and three stage wins he has the palmarès to be considered the Tour de France favourite.

Klöden in his fifth participation will be earmarked as a super-domestique for Vino but should plans be thwarted the German may battle for the overall win. He finished second in 2004 and arrived third last July, and many will mark him as a 'danger-man.'

Savoldelli and Ivanov, both past stage winners and in their sixth Tour participation, will provide strong support for Vino's overall bid, as will Kazakhs Iglinskiy and Kashechkin. Rast, Colom and Navarro will be staring in their first Tour.

Additionally, Astana announced that its riders led by Mario Kummer and Adriano Baffi will sign the UCI riders' agreement before the Tour de France.

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