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Italian targets second grand tour win of the season and will be formidably supported by Fuglsang, Brajkovic, Tiralongo and Kangert in the mountains

Photo: Sirotti

ALESSANDRO VANOTTI

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ANDRIY GRIVKO

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JAKOB FUGLSANG

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JANEZ BRAJKOVIC

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MAXIM IGLINSKIY

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PAOLO TIRALONGO

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TANEL KANGERT

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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19.08.2013 @ 12:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Astana has selected a formidable roster to support its ambitions of putting Vincenzo Nibali on the top step of the Vuelta a Espana. With climbers like Janez Brajkovic, Jakob Fuglsang, Paolo Tiralongo and Tanel Kangert set to deliver crucial support in the mountains, the team shapes up as one of the strongest in the race.

 

Vincenzo Nibali has set his sights on a very strong showing in the second part of the season with the Vuelta a Espana and the world championships on his home soil in Florence forming the backbone of his schedule. The first of those two major objectives starts in less than a week and the team has selected a very strong team to support the Italian in his quest to take his second grand tour win of the season.

 

The captain himself faced plenty of criticism in the Italian press when he delivered a modest performance in his first post-Giro race. A fruitless long-distance attack on the queen stage was his only significant showing in the Tour de Pologne but a 3rd place overall in the recent Vuelta a Burgos proved that he is back on track for what could be his second win in the Spanish grand tour following his 2010 victory.

 

He could not have wished a better team to support him as Astana has included most of its star riders on the roster. Jakob Fuglsang who recently finished 7th at the Tour de France will join forces with Janez Brajkovic - who crashed out of the French grand tour but finished 9th overall one year earlier - and Paolo Tiralongo to form the backbone of his support crew for the mountains. Fuglsang hasn't raced since the Clasica San Sebastian while Brajkovic and Tiralongo both finished the Vuelta a Burgos, the latter showing splendid condition by finishing 6th on the queen stage.

 

Tanel Kangert is set to offer the same kind of fabulous support he did in the Giro where he finished 14th overall despite dedicating himself to his captain. Since then he has finished 6th and 9th in the Tour de Suisse and Tour de Pologne respectively to prove his constantly growing level. Andrey Zeits was a crucial support rider in the Giro and the versatile Kazakh will be back to assist his captain in all terrains.

 

Andriy Grivko and Maxim Iglinskiy both finished in the top 10 in the Eneco Tour yesterday with the former even stepping onto the overall podium. Clearly on very good form at the moment, the duo will provide good support in the flat and medium mountain stages.

 

Alessandro Vanotti is one of Nibali's close friends who followed him when he left Liquigas to join Astana prior to this season. The Italian is his key support rider on the flat stages but his participation was uncertain due to injury. He had to abandon the Tour de Pologne but has now recovered sufficiently to line up at the event.

 

Valerio Agnoli is another of Nibali's closest friends who delivered key support during the Giro. Like Vanotti, he has, however, been hampered by injury and he hasn't recovered in time for the Spanish grand tour.

 

Despite the absence of Agnoli, Nibali is confident in the team that will support him on the extremely mountainous course which includes no less than 11 uphill finishes. The penultimate stage finishes on the steep Angliru climb and Nibali points to that day as one of the most decisive.

 

"The Vuelta is a very difficult race this year," he said. "There are some really important stages, like l'Angliru, that will be decisive for the final classification, and a lot of riders up for the challenge."

"One attack by Contador changed the results of the entire Vuelta last year. Stages like that are a little bit extraordinary, but they are extraordinarily difficult as well. They happen when everybody is looking for an advantage, and when a team is strong enough to go to the front and do something exceptional. I think we have a really strong team, and I think we are going to race extremely well at the Vuelta."

 

The Vuelta starts on Saturday with a team time trial in Galicia.

 

Astana for the Vuelta a Espana

Vincenzo Nibali, Paolo Tiralongo, Janez Brajkovic, Jakob Fuglsang, Tanel Kangert, Alessandro Vanotti, Andrey Zeits, Maxim Iglinskiy and Andriy Grivko

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