Team Astana receives 2008 Giro d'Italia invitation
One week prior to the start of the 2008 Giro d’Italia (May 10th-June 1st), the Astana cycling team has received an invitation to participate in the first Grand Tour of 2008. The Giro race organizer, RCS, changed their original February decision, which stated as reason for the non-invite that the team was not planning on bringing a “motivated” team. The non-invite came as a surprise since the team was unaware a roster had been provided to RCS.
After receiving the invitation, the team confirmed the riders who will start in Palermo: Alberto COntador, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Assan Bazayev, Antonio Colom, Vladimir Gusev, Maxim Iglinskiy, Andrey Mizurov and Dmitriy Muravyev. Sean Yates and Alexandr Shefer will direct the squad. A motivated team?
Team Astana’s general manager Johan Bruyneel gladly accepted the invitation. “I would like to thank RCS for reconsidering our team in the selection process. RCS has recognized that not inviting one of the best stage racing teams would have been a mistake and detrimental to the race and sport of cycling.” Bruyneel added that “I am most happy for our sponsors, Team and fans. Throughout all the political battles, our sponsors have continued to support us and our new mission for the Team. The riders and staff have handled themselves in a professional manner and remained focused on winning bike races. And our loyal fans have filled the race routes cheering for us. It’s a big honor to let them know we will now race in Italy.”
Though pleased, Bruyneel did acknowledge that the late invitation presents many challenges for Team Astana. “Preparation for a Grand Tour involves intensive planning, both for our staff and riders. Many people may not realize that riders schedule their season-long training programs around these three-week races. The one-week notice is certainly an extra challenge, but I’m confident that our team will show up motivated.”
Johan Bruyneel continued: "I am very happy with the results we have already obtained this season. I think that we proved in Romandie that we are the best team in the world for stage races. Increasingly more people understand what this team stands for and that we are an important and indispensable team. Probably we really are the best team and maybe therein lies our problem."
Andreas Klöden, selected as a co-leader, feels he is good shape for his first Giro. “After my nice overall victory today at the Tour of Romandie and my time-trial victory on Friday, I finally feel my form is close to where it needs to be. The first part of the season was tough due to my illnesses, but that’s now behind me and I can focus on the Tour of Italy, my first Giro.”
Like their teammate Klöden, Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer are making their Giro debut. Levi Leipheimer will need to travel from the US, where he had a successful Tour de Georgia, finishing in 3rd place overall. “It was a big surprise to get the call from Johan. I was planning on training in the US for a couple of weeks, but now I need to fly to Italy and prepare myself for a tough three-week race. I haven’t had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the course, but I know we’ll tackle some big climbs. I’ve also read that there are four time trials, which leads to me believe there will be some great opportunities for a rider like me,” commented Leipheimer from his home in California.
2007 Tour de France Champion Alberto Contador, who had a successful start of the season with stage and overall wins in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and Pais-Vasco, received the news while recovering from a dental operation. In spite of the dental trouble he was able to provide us with the following comment “It was a big surprise to me when Johan called me, since I was on a holiday. It is a big challenge for me and our team.”
The staff and the nine chosen riders will spend the next week in preparation for the first Grand Tour of 2008. We wish you the best of luck in Italy. Go prove why you should have been invited to the 2008 Tour de France too!
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