The Astana team has named its squad of nine riders for the Tour de France, opting for a solid squad of Grand Tour riders and rouleurs to help Vincenzo Nibali target a second consecutive yellow jersey.
Michele Scarponi, Jakob Fuglsang, Lars Boom, Lieuwe Westra, Tanel Kangert, Rein Taaramäe, Andrei Grivko and Dmitriy Gruzdev have been selected to help and protect Nibali during the tough opening week and then later in the Pyrenees and Alps. As expected, Nibali’s long-standing domestique Alessandro Vanotti was not selected for the team after opting not to ride the Italian national championships, claiming he was tired after representing Italy at the recent European Games in Baku.
Six of the riders helped Nibali win the 2014 Tour de France. Boom won the stage on the cobbles to Arenberg in 2014 while riding for the Belkin team before joining Astana for 2015. Kangert was the only rider in the line-up to have ridden the Giro d’Italia alongside Fabio Aru, while most of the other riders competed alongside Nibali in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“This will be my fifth Tour, I’ve managed to finish on the podium twice so far….” Nibali said. “I’m happy how the whole team’s build-up has gone well. They say that hard work always pays off and we’ve worked hard.”
Fuglsang confirmed that the team’s biggest goal was to win the Tour again with Nibali but the Dane is hoping to also win a stage. He pulled out of the Tour de Suisse due to a stomach problem but showed he has recovered by finishing fourth in the Danish time trial championships and eighth in the road race.
As defending champion, Nibali is expected to wear race number one when he lines up for the opening time trial stage in Utrecht on Saturday.
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