ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM
The capital of Kazakhstan, renamed from Astana to Nur-Sultan in 2019 in honour of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, has lent its name to a world-class cycling team ever since sponsor Liberty Seguros pulled out in May 2006. The team, backed by a consortium of state-owned companies based in this former Soviet republic in Asia, has changed management many times throughout its coloured history.
A positive test result of its leader and founder Alexander Vinokourov led to the team being booted from the 2007 Tour and having to spend some time in cycling purgatory before its return. The Kazakh team became the talk of the town in the 2009 Tour as it broke into two factions, one coalescing around eventual winner Alberto Contador and the other around returning star Lance Armstrong. The Court of Arbitration for Sport stripped Contador of the 2010 Tour de France title at the end of a long-running legal affair. In 2011, Astana's totem rider, Alexander Vinokourov, was racing in what was supposed to be his swansong in the Grande Boucle when he crashed and broke a bone in the Cantal department.
Determined to retire on a high note, the Kazakh champion came back to fight another day, claiming the 2012 Olympic road race in London and preparing the future of the team from a country where all these bumps on the road have failed to make a dent in its love for the Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali brought the turquoise squad back to the forefront of the cycling scene by winning the Giro in 2013, the Tour in 2014 and another Giro in 2016. The 2015 Vuelta champion, Fabio Aru, came out on top on La Planche des Belles Filles in 2017, matching Nibali's exploit in 2014. At Peyragudes, he became the first and, so far, the only rider who has wrested the yellow jersey from Chris Froome in the mountains, albeit for just two days. Jakob Fuglsang, the Danish winner of Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné, crashed out of the Tour and ruined the 2019 edition for Astana. The time for the Miguel Ángel "Superman" López, who had finished on the podium of the Giro and Vuelta, came in 2020. Before the Colombian's triumph in the queen stage on the Col de la Loze, the Kazakh champion, Alexey Lutsenko, had landed a symbolic win for Astana on Mont Aigoual. It was a watershed moment for a rider who had come to represent the whole team. In 2021, with internal conflicts in full swing and Vinokourov temporarily ousted from his position as team manager, Lutsenko focused on the general classification to finish seventh in Paris, assuring his status as the squad's sole leader in the 2022 Tour de France despite Nibali and López being back on the team. His eighth place last July was a demonstration of consistency over three weeks.
- Final victories2
- Stages victories14
- Yellows Jerseys34
- Other race Won0
Overall wins: 2
- 2009: Alberto Contador
- 2014: Vincenzo Nibali
Podium finishes: 0
Stage wins: 14
- 2009: team time trial in Montpellier and Alberto Contador in Verbier and Annecy (ITT)
- 2010: Alexander Vinokourov in Revel
- 2014: Vincenzo Nibali in Sheffield, on La Planche des Belles Filles, at Chamrousse and on Hautacam
- 2015: Vincenzo Nibali at La Toussuire
- 2017: Fabio Aru on La Planche des Belles Filles
- 2018: Omar Fraile in Mende and Magnus Cort Nielsen in Carcassonne
- 2020: Alexey Lutsenko on Mont Aigoual and Miguel Ángel López at Méribel/Col de la Loze
Secondary classification wins: 1
- 2009: team classification
Yellow jerseys: 34
- 2009: Alberto Contador, seven days
- 2010: Alberto Contador, six days
- 2014: Vincenzo Nibali, nineteen days
- 2017: Fabio Aru, two days
STARTS: 15 (since 2007)
19: the number of days spent in yellow by Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
7 July 2009: the Astana stars (Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden…) steamroll the opposition in the team time trial as an appetiser before Contador's overall win.
6 July 2014: Vincenzo Nibali defies the odds to outfox the peloton in a headwind and move into the lead in Sheffield.
3 September 2020: in Mont Aigoual's first appearance in the race, Alexey Lutsenko becomes the second Kazakh rider to win a Tour de France stage for Astana, after Alexander Vinokourov.
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