Astana have announced that Michele Scarponi will lead the team at the Giro d’Italia in the absence of the injured Fabio Aru. General manager Alexandre Vinokourov also confirmed that Jakob Fuglsang will be team leader at the Tour de France, and said that no date has been fixed for Aru’s return to racing.
On Monday, it was confirmed that Aru would miss the Giro after injuring his left knee in a training crash in Sierra Nevada on April 2. The Sardinian was diagnosed with pre-patellar bursitis of the left knee following a consultation in Milan.
“We decided to come to the Giro with Michele Scarponi as our leader. He will replace Fabio Aru, who is forced to skip the race due to the knee injury,” Vinokourov said.
The 37-year-old Scarponi was named the winner of the 2011 Giro when Alberto Contador was handed a retroactive doping ban and stripped of his victory at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2012. Later that same year, Scarponi was handed a three-month ban for frequenting the banned Dr Michele Ferrari. It was the second sanction of his career following his suspension for his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping case.
Scarponi placed 4th overall at the Giro in both 2012 and 2013, before moving to Astana the following year. His abandon due to a crash at the 2014 Giro allowed Aru to take the reins of team leadership, and the Sardinian went on to place 3rd overall. Scarponi finished 16th overall last year and played a key supporting role in the overall victory of Vincenzo Nibali.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday, Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli expressed the hope that Aru would recover in time for the Tour de France, but Vinokourov stressed that no revised racing programme has been planned just yet.
Fuglang has been earmarked as Astana’s Tour leader since the beginning of the season and the Dane will continue to prepare for La Grande Boucle. A deluxe domestique for Nibali in recent seasons, Fuglsang placed 7th at the 2013 Tour, the last occasion he led Astana in a Grand Tour.
“As we already communicated yesterday, Fabio has to pass the full treatment and recovery from his injury, so he won’t be able to start in his home race. For all of us, his good and full recovery is on the first place, while his further calendar will depend on the time of recovery and the results in the first races after it,” Vinokourov said.
“Despite this unhappy situation, we don’t talk about any great changes in our program. We are looking forward to the Giro d’Italia with the team we have as well as to the Tour de France, where Jakob Fuglsang, like it was planned, is preparing to take a leading spot.”