Astana is the first major team to kick off the cycling transfer season, announcing it has signed Lieuwe Westra and Franco Pellizotti for 2014, with several other riders also extending their current contracts.
Under UCI rules, teams can confirm new signing for the 2014 season from August 1.
Both new signings will boost the strength of the Astana team for stage races and no doubt play key roles in helping team leader Vincenzo Nibali target the 2014 Tour de France.
Westra is the Dutch national time trial champion, a consistent stage race rider and has been a team leader at the Vacansoleil-DCM team. He finished second to Bradley Wiggins at Paris-Nice in 2012, won the Tour of Denmark and was second in the Tour of Belgium. This year he won the opening stage of the Tour of California. He rode the Tour de France but was forced to retire from the race on the last stage to Paris due to illness.
Pellizotti is also an experienced rider who can target hilly stage races and Classics. He raced with Nibali at Liquigas but was suspended for two years after being caught by the UCI's biological passport. He made a comeback in May 2012 and immediately won the Italian national title while riding for the Androni Giocattoli team. He finished 11th overall in this year's Giro d'Italia and was second overall at the Route du Sud race in France in June.
"Franco is a veteran rider with more than 10 years of experience as a professional, and we are very happy to welcome him back among his friends and family. He rode at Liquigas-Cannondale with Vincenzo and they know each other well. He will be a valuable asset in our preparations for the Tour de France next year," team manager Alexandre Vinokurov said in a statement from the Astana team.
"Lieuwe is a very strong time trialist and climber, and joins Astana as a rider who could help Vincenzo Nibali next year at the Tour de France."
Dmitriy Muravyev, Borut Bozic, Francesco Gavazzi and Paolo Tiralongo have extended their contracts with the Kazakhstan team.
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