Zeits rejoins Nibali and López in return to Astana

RINCON DE LA VICTORIA SPAIN AUGUST 24 Andrey Zeits of Kazahkstan and Team BikeExchange crosses the finishing line during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 10 a 189km stage from Roquetas de Mar to Rincn de la Victoria lavuelta LaVuelta21 on August 24 2021 in Rincon De La Victoria Spain Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
Zeits at this year's Vuelta a España (Image credit: Getty Images)

After two years at Team BikeExchange, Andrey Zeits will return to the Astana Qazaqstan team in 2022. 

The 34-year-old Kazakhstani rider began his career with the country's flagship cycling team back in 2008 and established himself as one of their key Grand Tour domestiques. 

He left after the 2019 season for a new challenge at the Australian squad but hardly raced in 2020 due to the pandemic and an unspecified illness. 

He rode a full campaign this year, including the Vuelta a España - his 19th Grand Tour - but has made the decision to return to his old home. 

"Of course, I am very happy to return to the Astana project. I have spent many years in this team and together with it, I have achieved many great team successes. Returning to Astana Qazaqstan Team is a new opportunity to prove myself, to set new goals, and to try to achieve it," Zeits said. 

"Ahead of the start of the new season I am really motivated to do everything possible to help the team leaders, whom I know very well, and also to try to share all my experience with young guys who have recently joined the team or are just going to join it in the upcoming season."

Zeits will be reunited with Vincenzo Nibali, who himself is returning to the team after two years at Trek-Segafredo and three at Bahrain Victorious. Zeits was part of the squad that delivered Nibali to Giro d'Italia glory in 2013 and 2016, as well as helping Fabio Aru to the Vuelta a España title in 2015. 

He'll also be linking back up with Miguel Ángel López, whom he helped to the podium at the Giro and Vuelta in 2018 and who is making his own speedy return after an ill-fated season at Movistar. 

"We know Andrey as a very strong and reliable team rider, a great assistant, who you can always rely on at the Grand Tours," said team boss Alexandre Vinokourov.

"The last two years have not been the most successful for him for various reasons, but now he is returning to our team, and we are happy to welcome him in Astana Qazaqstan Team. I think Andrey will be able to help Miguel Ángel López or Alexey Lutsenko in their fight for some important results at the most prestigious races in the world."

Astana have had a reboot ahead of the 2022 season, with Vinokourov reinstated as head boss and the Kazakhstani element of the team regaining full control after the fall-out with Canadian backer Premier Tech. 

Zeits' return strengthens the home contingent, taking the number of Kazakhstani riders from nine to 10, along with the return of sports director Alexandr Shefer. National champion Alexey Lutsenko was handed a new three-year contract and appears set to take on further Grand Tour responsibilities after placing seventh at this year's Tour de France. 

The team have also extended with a number of Italian riders but the roster is undergoing a significant overhaul, with the departures list including Jakob Fulgsang, Hugo Houle, Aleksandr Vlasov, Alex Aranburu, Gorka and Ion Izagirre, Merhawi Kudus, Matteo Sobrero, and Luis Leon Sanchez. 

Zeits is the 14th new signing, with Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) and Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) among the new faces, alongside Nibali and López. 

"The return of Andrey Zeits to Astana Qazaqstan Team is great news and on behalf of our federation I welcome the contract signing with this highly experienced domestic rider who has successfully competed on the WorldTour level for many years and defended the colors of Kazakhstan at the most prestigious competitions, such as the Olympics and World Championships," said Kazakhstan Cycling Federation president Nurlan Smagulov.

"Despite all the difficulties of the season, this year Andrey proved that he is still in a great form, so his arrival in the team is an unconditional strengthening of both the team and Kazakhstan's position in world cycling."

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