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Astana Women's team to continue under Mexican ownership

Cuban road race champion Arlenis Sierra will be looking for stage victories for her Astana team at the 2020 Giro Rosa
The 2020 Astana Women's team (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Astana Women's team is undergoing a transformation in 2021, with the Kazakhstani backing ending and a new investment from Mexico to give the team a "Latin soul". 

The team will merge with the A.R Efideporte mountain bike team run by Alejandro and Luis Rodríguez, with title sponsorship also coming from the financial company Monex. It will be known as A.R. Monex Women's Pro Cycling Team. 

Despite the Mexican influence, the team will be registered and based in Italy, and will be part of a group that includes the mountain bike team and a new men's U23 squad. 

Both the Astana men's and women's teams had been threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the slump in the oil and gas industries leading the Samruk Kazyna sovereign wealth fund to reconsider its support of the teams. 

The men's team future has now been shored up, but there was no more funding for the women's team after six years. In spite of that, the team will continue under the same management of Maurizio Fabretto, albeit with a new identity.

"I am really proud to be able to launch this new project because it is just what we needed to get back on track immediately with new motivations," Fabretto said in Wednesday's announcement. 

"When I met the brothers Alejandro and Luis Rodríguez they impressed me for their work ethic, they are extremely professional and they know very well that it takes a European base and racing constantly on this side of the ocean to be able to develop in the best way these young riders and everything we are building together in these weeks.

"We share many ideals, and that is why I am working a lot personally to ensure that the foundations we are laying now are very solid."

There is a three-year agreement in place in what is billed as "an ambitious and fascinating project", with the team looking to step up to the Women's WorldTour at some point. 

There are 13 riders on a "strengthened" 2021 roster, three of which have been announced, and the other 10 to be revealed at a later date. Cuban rider Arlenis Sierra will remain as "the leader and point of reference", while Mexican Yareli Salazar and Italian Katia Ragusa are the other two riders who have been confirmed so far.

"The team will be strong and we are convinced that we have strengthened it a lot; we have kept the ones that have done best in the last season and we have added several important elements," said Fabretto, who revealed he'd made a signing from a WorldTour team.

"We want to do things well, without rushing the times, but working over three or four years to get there at the highest levels, to have the number 1 team not only in all of Latin America, but for what I am seeing nothing prevents us fro m dreaming of the World Tour or the Women's World Tour within a few seasons."