The Colombian first came to Europe in 2016, turning pro with Quick-Step Floors having been spotted by their then talent scout, Joxean Fernández Matxin.
However, things didn't work out as Contreras struggled with injuries and the adaptation to life in Europe. After just 32 race days – of which just over half were completed – he and the team decided together to annul the second year of his neo-pro contract, and he returned to Colombia to compete on the domestic scene.
"The whole experience was complicated," Contreras told Cyclingnews earlier this year as he issued a reminder of his name with some aggressive riding at the Colombia Oro y Paz pro race. "I injured my right knee at the Tour de San Luis, and all year actually I was between injuries. It wasn't easy at all for me. I live at altitude, nearly 3,000 metres above sea level, whereas Europe is at sea level. It wasn't good for me being over there so long. That's just one thing – there were many circumstances. It just didn't work for me."
Contreras, now 24, has found his feet again and this year has shone in South America. Though he was unable to take a stage win among the likes of Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán, and Egan Bernal at the Oro y Paz, he has won the Vuelta al Valle del Cauca and Vuelta al Tolima, both with time trial wins along the way, and won both the prologue and individual time trial at the recent Vuelta a Colombia, the most prestigious race in South America. To add to his dominance against the clock he won the time trial titles at the South American Games and at the Central American and Caribbean Games.
Contreras said back in February he'd like to return to Europe to give it another crack, and his results have opened that door.
"This is a huge opportunity, which my life provides me. I step on a new way to reach new goals and dreams," said Contreras in a statement from Astana.
"First of all, I hope to be able to do my best to help Astana Team to reach new victories and triumphs. I am waiting from myself an improvement of my abilities day by day to become a strong athlete and real professional rider. For me it is a big honor to join this great Astana Pro Team."
Astana's general manager added: "We know Rodrigo Contreras as a young rider with a big potential in time trial races. So far he showed some strong results on the continental level, and we expect he will develop his skills in the WorldTour as well, at least, in our team the rider will get all necessary conditions for his development step by step. I am optimistic on Conteras’ arrival in Astana Pro Team."
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