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Lopez leads strong Astana squad at Vuelta a Espana

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Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Miguel Angel Lopez attacks to win stage 4 at Volta a Catalunya

Miguel Angel Lopez attacks to win stage 4 at Volta a Catalunya
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Jakob Fuglsang relied on the strength of his Astana team on the final day at the Dauphine

Jakob Fuglsang relied on the strength of his Astana team on the final day at the Dauphine
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luis Leon Sanchez wins stage 2 at Tour de Suisse

Luis Leon Sanchez wins stage 2 at Tour de Suisse
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The Astana team enjoys the crowd's cheers at the teams presentation

The Astana team enjoys the crowd's cheers at the teams presentation
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Astana have named a strong squad to start the Vuelta a España, with a number of experienced riders heading to Spain in support of team leader Miguel Ángel López.

The eight-man team, with key riders including Jakob Fuglsang and Luis León Sánchez, boasts an impressive 93 Grand Tour starts, an average age of 31.25, and eight stage race victories between them in 2019.

López, who finished third at the Vuelta last year, heads up the team. The Colombian won Colombia 2.1 and the Volta a Catalunya earlier in the season, and was the best young rider at the Giro d'Italia. With two podium and four top ten placings from five career Grand Tours, he'll be aiming for the podium at least.

Fuglsang has been one of the riders of the season in 2019 and could mount a GC challenge of his own. He lay in ninth at the Tour de France before crashing out on stage 16. A blazing first half of the season saw the Dane win the Vuelta a Andalucía, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné, as well as taking podiums at Strade Bianche and La Flèche Wallonne.

Sánchez, starting his tenth Vuelta, is the most experienced Grand Tour rider in the squad, with 21 starts to his name. He was king of the mountains at the Vuelta in 2013, and this year has the Vuelta a Murcia and a stage at the Tour de Suisse to his name.

The Izagirre brothers, Ion and Gorka, also make the squad. Ion won a stage at Paris-Nice, the Vuelta al País Vasco and Vuelta a Valenciana in the spring before helping López at the Giro, while Gorka took the overall at the Tour de la Provence.

Omar Fraile is the fourth Spaniard in the eight-man squad, and the fourth man to race the Tour-Vuelta double along with Fuglsang, Sánchez and Gorka Izagirre.

The two experienced Italians, Dario Cataldo and Manuele Boaro round out the roster. Both raced with López at the Giro, with Cataldo taking a breakaway win in Como on stage 15.

With the upcoming Vuelta featuring 12 uphill finishes, including eight stages that finish on mountain summits, a team packed with climbers certainly looks the right choice for Astana. On paper, at least, they look among the strongest lineups for the final Grand Tour of the season.

Astana Pro Team for the Vuelta a España (August 24-September 15): Manuele Boaro (Ita), Dario Cataldo (Ita), Omar Fraile (Spa), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Gorka Izagirre (Spa), Ion Izagirre (Spa), Miguel Ángel López (Col), Luis León Sánchez (Spa)