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Fabio Felline, Davide Martinelli, Manuele Boaro and Harold Tejada continue with Astana Qazaqstan Team – Astana

Fabio Felline, Davide Martinelli, Manuele Boaro and Harold Tejada continue with Astana Qazaqstan Team

Four riders have prolonged their contracts with Astana Qazaqstan Team: Italians Fabio Felline (31), Davide Martinelli (28), Manuele Boaro (34) and Colombian Harold Tejada (24) all signed a new two-year agreement with the Kazakh team.

“I want to keep on improving in the following two years with Astana Qazaqstan Team to become a more complete rider in terms of helping the leaders and reaching my personal goals. Last year I tasted success with Astana winning Memorial Marco Pantani and a few times during this season I was close to important achievements too, so I hope to keep on continuing this way in 2022. The new contract and the good changes in the team motivate me to work more and to push harder in the races in the new season”, – said Fabio Felline, who was ninth at the Tour of Slovakia and 14th at the Tirreno-Adriatico this year.

 

“I am really happy to renew my contract with the team. My first two years in Astana turned out to be really good, I found a nice atmosphere here and it was a big pleasure for me to work for the leaders and to help the team to achieve its goals. In the upcoming season the team is going to change a lot and I am sure we will be able to create a strong group which will succeed. I am also happy to see that our “classic” group has been strengthened so I hope we will be more competitive in these races”, – said Davide Martinelli, who was third in a stage of Adriatica-Ionica and fourth at Serenissima Gravel in 2021.

 

“I see the team is strengthening for the new year and I am happy to remain a part of Astana Qazaqstan Team. I am happy to stay in this amazing group of riders and staff and I am ready to continue giving my all in support of the leaders. I think that the upcoming year can be a successful one for Astana with the arrival of Vincenzo Nibali, with Alexey Lutsenko who keeps on improving year by year, and with other strong riders coming, so it is a honor and pleasure for me to ride side by side with them pursuing the common goals. I remain in full disposition of the team but, of course, if in any race the team will ask me to try to get a personal result, I will be there ready for that”, – said Manuele Boaro, the biggest breakaway specialist of the team.

 

“Well, the last season was not the one I was hoping for due to different reasons, mostly connected with health problems and crashes. I expected a better debut at the Giro d’Italia and I was hoping for a better end of the season with the races I really like, such as Giro dell’Emilia and Il Lombardia. But a bad crash forced me to finish the season much earlier than I wanted to. However, the new contract with the team provides me an additional motivation and inspiration and I am grateful to Astana Qazaqstan Team for this chance. I hope I will be able to return to the level of 2020 when I had a really good season, and I will work 200% to become stronger. I see some important and good changes inside the team, and I am really happy to welcome the new riders coming to our team and, of course, Miguel Angel Lopez who is coming back to us. I have great hopes about the new season, and I am looking forward to reuniting with the team at the first training camp”, – said Harold Tejada, who was 36th in the General Classification of the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

 

“With the riders we announce today we can say we are gathering a strong and ambitious group, ready for some important achievements in the upcoming season. Fabio is a very experienced rider, and we can count on him in almost all kinds of races, both pursuing the team goals or asking him to fight for a personal result. Davide will be part of the improved “classic races” group, and we can expect from him and other riders something really nice at the Northern classics. Manuele is a strong and loyal team player, always ready to support the leader or to protect team interests in the breakaway. Harold is still very young and if he leaves all his health problems behind, I am sure he will become an important part of our Grand Tour group”, – concluded Alexandr Vinokurov, General Manager of Astana Qazaqstan Team.

Photo credit: @Gettysport

— Vitalii to www.astana-qazaqstan.com

Fabio Aru: The Last Dance

Fabio Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana champion, a winner of stages in all three grand tours, a true fighter on the bike and a genuinely very nice man has called time on his pro cycling career, with the final stage of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana his last.

At just 31 years of age, some may have been surprised upon hearing Aru’s intentions to retire, when he made the announcement on the eve of the Spanish grand tour. Particularly because the Sardinian had just come into the best form he has had in the last 3 years.

After a solid showing at the GP Lugano this year, Aru then raised eyebrows at the lower key Sibiu Tour with a 2nd place finish on GC. The Vuelta a Burgos soon followed, where up against a very strong peloton, Aru attacking on Picon Blanco brought joy to so many in the cycling world. Another strong ride on the final mountain stage secured back-to-back 2nd places in the GC standings and confirmed the Aru was getting back to his best.

“The last 3 years had been very difficult for me. This year we opted to change my program, skip the Tour, and go to Lugano and then Sibiu. It was there I found a good feeling on the bike again. I could start attacking again and riding with that freedom you feel when you can actually race the race. It was a feeling I missed so much.”

With renewed enthusiasm, Aru was selected to represent Team Qhubeka NextHash at the Vuelta a Espana. A race which has had so many defining moments in his career, winning two stages and finishing in the top 5 overall in 2014 was followed by him winning the race overall in 2015.

Given his history with the race, and love the Spanish cycling fans have for him, it is easier to understand why the Vuelta a Espana is the chosen stage for his final chapter. It would be the ‘last dance’ and a celebration of his career on the roads that already hold numerous good memories.

“In 2014 I won my first race as a professional at the Giro d’Italia, that was special, and I am not sure if anything can compare to that moment because I am Italian and to win at the Giro for an Italian is something else. That win changed my life and ensured people began to know who I am. But that year I also got to discover this beautiful country, Spain. I feel a lot of love and appreciation from the Spanish cycling fans. I think they enjoy the way I race, as I have always been a rider who will attack when my legs are good. I have always loved racing on these roads and up the great climbs around Spain, they hold so many of my best memories. “

Hours before the team presentation in Burgos, an emotional Fabio Aru announced his retirement plans to his teammates and then the world.

“For every rider there comes a time in their career when they know it is their time to stop. This time is different for each rider, for me it is a feeling, and I have this feeling now. For 16 years I have been a bike rider, this career has required that I spend a lot of time away from my family. Now it is my time to give back to them. Now I just want to enjoy this final experience and do my best.”

The Vuelta got off to a positive start as Aru was firmly in GC contention up until the end of stage 10. However, a lingering stomach issue that first surfaced just before the rest day took a turn for the worse after stage 11. A fairly-tale ending seemed doomed for Aru as he spoke to the media in Jaen, on the morning of stage 12.

“I feel really, really bad, I am completely empty at the moment. Last night and this morning have been terrible, with the vomiting and diarrhoea. Right now, I am not even sure I will be at the start line later.”

As Aru has done many times in his career though, he fought with everything he had, and mustered up the strength to start the stage not knowing if he would even be able to make it past the neutral zone. The stage got off to an incredibly fast start, the peloton averaging over 50km/h for the first 80km of the stage in sweltering heat. The much-expected abandon never came though, Aru completed the stage.

With the worst behind him, Aru was able to recover somewhat over the following stages and soon showed the form he had pre-race, had not left. Between stages 15 and 19, cycling fans were treated to four out of five days of attacking from Fabio Aru.

The cheers as the breakaway passed were maybe that little bit louder than usual on those days, and although the peloton gave nothing away on each occasion, shutting the break down, nothing could smother that famous Aru smile that has so fittingly returned on the roads in Spain.

“I went through a very difficult period in this race. A big thank you to the team for helping me through it, it was a small victory in itself. Over these last days I have truly enjoyed just being able to give my best. To be at the front with power in the legs. The support has been special, I have received so many lovely words and I thank you all. Certainly, I will need some days to understand the feeling entirely, so it is difficult to say right now how I feel as go to start my last day as pro, but I am glad to be here now, racing for Qhubeka, and I am happy.”

— Damian to teamqhubeka.com