Current Lampre-Merida rider Michele Scarponi has formalised his move to Astana after signing a one year contract the team announced yesterday. Astana general manager Alexander Vinokurov confirmed that Scarponi was the last rider to be signed for the team and that Giro leadership was focus for the 34-year-old Italian.
"Michele is a Giro leader, and he can be our Captain for Astana Pro Team in May," explained Vinokurov. "Our young Fabio Aru will ride with him, as will Alexey Lutsenko, and we see an environment where these very talented young riders will learn race leadership skills and strategies alongside Scarponi as he rides for a podium at the Giro d'Italia next year."
Having finished first in the Giro in 2011- after the disqualification of Alberto Contador- as well as fourth in 2010, 2012 and 2013, Scarponi is again aiming for a podium at his home Grand Tour. In exchange for team support in May, Scarponi will then become a key lieutenant to Vincenzo Nibali in July when he targets victory at the Tour de France.
"Our main goal next year is to build up a team that can come together around the massively complicated and extraordinarily difficult task of riding for Vincenzo Nibali and his shot at a podium, and why not, a win, at the Tour de France," added Vinokurov. "Michele Scarponi has experience and strength that after the Giro we can go with him into the Alps and Pyrenees in July.
"It is worth an attempt, because the Tour is so important, and requires so much coordination and commitment. We need strong riders and we will need just as much good luck as anything else."
Jakob Fuglsang is another rider crucial to Astana's Grand Tour ambitions for 2014 be it the Giro or the Tour. Fuglsang previously told Cyclingnews that he would like to attempt a Giro-Tour double, but what his exact role within the team would be is not yet decided. The rider who finished seventh in this year's Tour also said that he was ready to give 100 percent for Nibali in the month of July.