The Astana team has held its official presentation in Kazakhstan, revealing its new jersey, 30-rider 2018 roster and also remembering Michele Scarponi, who died tragically in a training accident just before the Giro d'Italia. Next year will be Astana's 13th season in the men's peloton. Astana also has a women's team.
For the new the season the team explained that the Astana name will represent a single national sports brand that brings together the best professional clubs of the country and the Astana team.
Astana had to accept Fabio Aru's decision leave for UAE Team Emirates, despite threatening legal action, but signed six new riders, including Omar Fraile (from Dimension Data), Jan Hirt (CCC Sprandi), Canada's Hugo Houle (AG2R La Mondiale), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott). The Danish sprinter was the only rider absent from the presentation after recently fracturing his collarbone during training.
While other teams have cut their roster following the reduction in team sizes for races, Astana has kept a 30-rider roster. Team leaders include Jakob Fuglsang and Miguel Angel Lopez, who will lead Astana in the Grand Tours, Alexey Lutsenko, Michael Valgren, Dario Cataldo and Tanel Kangert.
Astana won 18 races in 2017. Fuglsang won the Criterium du Dauphine and Aru won a stage and wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. However, the team was hit hard by the death of Scarponi just a few days after he won the opening stage at the Tour of the Alps and as he was preparing to lead the team at the Giro d'Italia.
"There is no a secret for anyone, that the last season was a tough one for our team. Not only because of big changes at the start of 2017, injuries and bad luck, but, first of all, because of a huge loss. We lost Michele Scarponi and he will always be in our hearts," team manager Alexander Vinokourov said after a moving video tribute was shown to remember Scarponi.
"Together, we were able to pass through all the hard moments and in the second part of the year we proved that Astana still holds its place as one of the best teams around the world. In 2017 we scored a number of nice victories and big achievements at the highest level, both in the UCI WorldTour races and Grand tours.
"With today's presentation we officially open our new season. We step up in the New Year with a renewed, well-balanced roster, ready for some big things roster. The roster allows us to follow our goals not only at the Grand Tours, but at the weeklong races and the Classics."
The riders will now travel to Altea, in Spain for a December training camp.