Guardini to make Astana debut at the Tour Down Under

Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini will make his 2013 debut with the Astana team at the Tour Down Under, with the Kazakhstani team also naming Enrico Gasparotto and 2012 Liège–Bastogne–Liège winner Maxim Iglinskiy in its squad.

Surprisingly, the Tour Down Under organisers also listed Andrey Kashechkin in the press release announcing the Astana line-up for the early-season WorldTour race. However he was suspended by the Astana team on Friday after he refused to sign the team's internal code of conduct. Kashechkin returned to racing in 2010 after serving a ban for blood doping. His name does not appear on the official race website, with a note saying his replacement will be announced at a later date.

Guardini has shown his sprinting speed with a haul of wins in the last two years, including taking Mark Cavendish's scalp on stage 18 of the 2012 Giro d'Italia. However the pocket-rocket Italian struggles on the climbs and will face major competition from the on-form Australians, multiple stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) fellow Italian Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Britain's Ben Swift (Team Sky).

Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli and general manager Alexandre Vinokourov both expect big things from Guardini in South Australia.

"Adelaide should watch out for Guardini, he will make his presence known at the finish," Vinokourov warned.

Martinelli said: "Guardini has all of the characteristics of becoming a world class sprinter. His explosive jump and tremendous leg speed took him to more than 20 top ten finishes last season, including a win at the Giro d'Italia against the World Champion. Astana is sending a strong squad in support of Andrea."

The Astana team will be managed in Australia by new directeur sportif Stefano Zanini.

The race opens with the People's Choice criterium on Sunday January 20, with the six-day Tour Down Under between Tuesday January 22 and Sunday January 27.

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