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According to Biciciclismo, Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert, Jakob Fuglsang and Andriy Grivko are guaranteed to ride the Tour in support of Nibali, with Lieuwe Westra and Fredrik Kessiakoff also likely to do the race

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ANDRIY GRIVKO

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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FREDRIK KESSIAKOFF

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JAKOB FUGLSANG

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LIEUWE WESTRA

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MICHELE SCARPONI

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TANEL KANGERT

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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17.12.2013 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli has selected the core of riders that will support Vincenzo Nibali at the Tour de France. According to Biciciclismo, Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert, Jakob Fuglsang and Andriy Grivko have guaranteed spots on the roster while Lieuwe Westra and Fredrik Kessiakoff are also likely to do the world's biggest race. The team rules out that Nibali will do the Giro d'Italia.

 

After winning the Giro d'Italia and finishing 2nd in the Vuelta a Espana in 2013, Vincenzo Nibali and Astana have made it clear that the 2014 season has one overshadowing target: to ride into Paris with the yellow jersey on Nibali's shoulders. The team has carefully prepared its assault on the biggest race in the world and will build its entire season on those three weeks in July.

 

The team is currently gathered for a training camp in the Spanish city of Calpe and has finalized the race schedules for most of its riders. With the Tour de France being the major target, several riders will have programs that are designed with the sole purpose of having them in peak condition at the start line in Yorkshire on July 5.

 

In France, Nibali will have four core support riders which have already been guaranteed a spot on the roster. Michele Scarponi will add valued experience and exceptional climbing legs in his first year with Astana and will do the Tour after leading the team in the Giro d'Italia.

 

This year Tanel Kangert was a trusted lieutenant for Nibali in both the Giro and the Vuelta but still had enough in the tank to finish 14th and 11th respectively. Those results have made him a guaranteed participant in the Tour where he will make his debut. He has been rumoured to be given his own chance as the team leader for the Vuelta.

 

Jakob Fuglsang got his own chance in this year's Tour and exceeded expectations when he finished 7th overall. However, the Dane will have to put his personal ambitions aside in 2014 where his main target will be to support Nibali in the Tour.

 

While Fuglsang, Kangert and Scarponi are all climbers, the final rider on the provisional roster is more of an all-rounder. Andriy Grivko masters most disciplines and will especially play a role on the flat stages after supporting Nibali to his 2nd place in this year's Vuelta a Espana.

 

Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli told Biciciclismo that Lieuwe Westra and Fredrik Kessiakoff will also have schedules that are focused on the Tour de France and they are both likely to be at the start line in Yorkshire. Westra has joined the team from Vacansoleil and the time trial specialist will offer support for Nibali in most terrains. Kessiakoff is a strong climber and good time trialist who was in contention for the mountains jersey in the 2012 edition of the Tour but never found his best legs in 2013. He hopes to return to his best in time for the July start.

 

Biciciclismo reports that those 6 riders will all have a schedule that is very similar to Nibali's and they will all do the Dauphiné as their final preparation race for the Tour. However, Scarponi is likely to be an exception from this general statement as the Italian will be the only rider to the Giro in May.

 

With 7 spots more or less confirmed, only two riders will be added to the roster. Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli are known as Nibali's close friends and trusted domestiques and would both be in contention for a spot. At the same time, Janez Brajkovic would be an evident candidate for a spot while Paolo Tiralongo has also expressed his desire to the Tour after riding the Giro in the spring. At the same time, Astana is unlikely to line up a team that doesn't contain a single rider from Kazakhstan, with Maxim Iglinskiy being the most likely candidate from the home country.

 

No Giro for Nibali

Martinelli also revealed Nibali's race schedule for the coming season. For a long time, Nibali has refused to definitively rule out a return to the Giro but it now appears to be certain that the defending champion will not be at the start in Belfast.

 

Instead, Nibali will spend the month of May at Tenerife where he will attend three training camps in his build-up to the Tour. The first one comes at the end of his first block of racing which will kick off at the Tour de San Luis.

 

If the birth of his daughter allows it, he will return to the Tour of Oman before skipping an attempt at a third Tirreno-Adriatico win in favour of the Paris-Nice. The French race will allow him to reach his best form for the Milan-Sanremo whose new course has made it the first big target for Nibali. He will the ride the Criterium International before travelling to Tenerife for the first time.

 

His second block of racing will be a shorter one as it only contains the Amstel Gold Race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and probably the Tour de Romandie before he goes back to Tenerife. He will return to the European mainland for the final warm-up race, the Criterium du Dauphiné, and will then go back to the island to put the final touches on his preparation in the second half of June.

 

While he will certainly chase results in several races along the way, there is really only one goal for Nibali in 2014: To win the Tour de France.

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