The Sicilian won three Grand Tours in the last four years but the role of team leader in Grand Tours now falls on the shoulders of Fabio Aru, who will target the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana in 2017.
"Vincenzo was a big rider for us but it's a normal change to teams in professional cycling," team manager Alexander Vinokourov said during the presentation at the team's first get together in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. "Our objectives are the same: to win Grand Tours. We won 34 races in 2016. In the last 10 years we won eight Grand Tours. Now we hope that we can another Grand Tour - the Giro d'Italia, with Fabio."
The riders will remain in Tuscany until Saturday to complete their medical check-ups and define their racing programmes. Some riders have begun riding on their new Argon 18 bikes but serious training will be begin in Calpe, Spain. The riders will then travel to Kazakhstan capital Astana for the official team presentation on December 11.
"For the Tour de France we'll see what Jakob Fuglsang can do," Vinokourov confirmed. "He's never won a race with Astana and he's always sacrificed his chances for others. He showed what he can by taking second in the Olympic road race, so he deserves his chance.
"We've got 10 new riders in the team and strengthened our Classics squad, so I hope we can also be competitive in the spring in Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Aru hoping to learn from his mistakes
Aru sat quietly as Vinokourov answered questions and then openly admitted his 2016 had been a disappointment after he cracked on the final mountain stage of the Tour de France. He is hoping the Sardinia start of the Giro d'Italia on home roads will see him return to his best.
"Last year was not easy for me, it was pretty negative to be honest," Aru said. "I'm sure you always learn more in a bad year than in a successful year and that's the case for me. I made mistakes and I'm working to correct them.
"Things went wrong from the start of the season, I never felt I was pedaling well or at my usual level and I'm not afraid to admit that. There are also other things that are personal that we'll keep to ourselves. However I'm not going to change things too much. For sure I'll keep doing training camps at altitude. I'll probably race more to find my race rhythm. I'm not a youngster anymore and so a few extra races won't hurt me.
"We've still got to finalise my programme but the Giro d'Italia will be my goal. The Giro starting in Sardinia is huge motivation for me."
With Nibali moving on, Jakob Fuglsang has finally got a leadership role for the Tour de France. He's ready to step up and take it.
"In 2013 I had a chance to be a captain and I did my best and was seventh at the Tour de France I'm happy to have another chance next year," Fuglsang said. "I'm perhaps a level below a rider like Nibali but I can only hope to land some big results and win something special for Astana. I've been here four years and now its time to win."
Michael Valgren joins Astana from Tinkoff after finishing second at the Amstel Gold Race. He will lead the strengthened Classics squad that also includes Matti Breschel, Alexey Lutsenko, Oscar Gatto and Moreno Moser. Astana hopes strength in numbers will make up for a lack of a major Classics winner.
"Astana always rides aggressively and that's the way I like it," Valgren said. "I've got an opportunity to try to win a Classic and that's my big goal. When I was younger I looked up to Alexander and to be here in this team is a big moment for me."
New jersey, new bikes
Thanks to an agreement between the Bora team and the Argon 18 and Specialized bike brands, the Astana riders have already begun using their 2017 bikes and other new technical sponsors. Astana unveiled all their new technical sponsors for the 2017 season.
The new Astana jersey – made by Giordana – now fades from sky blue on the shoulders into the black of the shorts, with the Argon 18 logo and that of new sponsor Premier Tech – a Canadian Horticulture and Agriculture company, on the shorts. The yellow flashes are a hope of success in the Tour de France, with special pink likely to be added for the Giro d'Italia.
After using Specialized and Campagnolo in 2016, Astana will use Argon 18 bikes equipped with FSA and Shimano components, with a gradual transition to the FSA WE electronic gear system during the season. New technical sponsors include Sidi shoes, Prologo saddles, Garmin computers and Limar helmets. Astana will wear Clique casual clothing.
Argon 18 will supply close to 250 bikes for 2017, with riders able to use the Astana team issue Gallium Pro lightweight bike, the Nitrogen Pro aero bike and the E118 Next time trial bike. Argon 18 will also supply their Gallium Pro disc model, with Astana planning a gradually use of disc brakes during the 2017 season.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.