The capital of Kazakhstan has lent its name to a world-class cycling team ever since sponsor Liberty Seguros pulled out in May 2006. A coalition of state-owned companies of this former Soviet republic provides the financial backing for the Astana team, which has oft-times changed its management throughout its eventful history.
The team was booted from the 2007 Tour following the positive test result of its leader and founder Alexander Vinokourov, forcing it to spend some time in Purgatory before making its return. Nevertheless, the Kazakh team's 2009 Tour was marred by its break-up into two factions, one coalescing around eventual winner Alberto Contador and another around comeback star Lance Armstrong. In 2010, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Alberto Contador's acquittal at the end of a long-running legal affair. And in 2011, Astana's flagship rider Alexander Vinokourov was in his final curtain call in the Grande Boucle when he fell and broke a bone in the Cantal department.
Therefore, the Kazakh champion came back to fight another day, claiming gold in the road race in London 2012 and preparing the future of a team that represents a country where the Tour de France frenzy is still going strong despite these bumps on the road. Vincenzo Nibali, who won the 2013 and 2016 Giros as well as the 2014 Tour in the turquoise kit, brought the spotlight back onto the team. 2015 Vuelta champion Fabio Aru, who repeated Nibali's 2014 exploit by winning on La Planche des Belles Filles last year, became the only rider who has managed to take the yellow jersey from Chris Froome in the mountains, in Peyragudes, albeit for just two days. The Danish winner of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné, Jakob Fuglsang, will lead the team until the Colombian phenomenon Miguel Ángel López (third in the 2018 Giro) comes fully into his own.
Overall wins : 2
Stage wins : 10
Secondary classification wins : 1
Yellow jerseys : 16
19: the number of days Vincenzo Nibali spent in yellow in 2014.
24 July 2007: the entire Astana team is disqualified from the Tour de France following the positive test result of its leader Alexander Vinokourov.
7 July 2009: the Astana stars (Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden…) steamroll the team time trial as an appetiser before Contador's overall win.
6 July 2014: Vincenzo Nibali takes the lead in a stage where few expected him to do so, in Sheffield, riding into a headwind and with the pack hot on his heels.
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