The Astana Pro Team has been in the professional peloton since 2007. The team has had a lot of success over the years with riders such as Vincenzo Nibali, Alexander Vinokourov and Alberto Contador. In recent years, the team has not played a significant role in the major stage races, mainly due to the lack of a true lead rider, but the team does have a set of very strong racers all of whom are capable of bagging a top 10 place or a stage victory. We take a look at the five most serious contenders.
Luis Leon Sanchez
Luis Leon Sanchez is a real veteran of the peloton. He joined the ranks of the professionals in 2003 and still clearly enjoys riding at the highest level. He enjoyed his best years riding for Rabobank between 2010 and 2013. In that period he won the Clásica de San Sebastián twice. He has also won four Tour de France stages, and in 2009 he won Paris–Nice. These days he’s more of a support rider, but he can still go up rolling hills quite well. He finished 4th in the Tour Down Under in 2019, and we expect him to be in the mix for the various hilly classics, the Criterium de Dauphine and in the Tour de France.
Jakob Fuglsang has also been around a while, riding at World Tour level for 10 years. He was initially seen as a major talent and potential Tour winner, however that promise has never quite come to fruition. Nevertheless, he has won the Criterium de Dauphiné and was 2nd in the 2016 Olympics Men’s Road Race. He also rode a very good Tour de France in 2017, however he had to retire from the race after a day during which he attacked hard, and while he was placed 5th overall. In 2019, his main goal is the Tour de France. He will prepare by racing the Tirreno–Adriatico, the Belgian Classics and the Criterium de Dauphine.
Miguel Angel Lopez
Despite the fact that Astana doesn’t really have a potential stage race winner, Miguel Angel Lopez is a dangerous outsider. And he had a significant breakthrough in 2018: he was 3rd in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Spain. His race programme in 2019 will probably look similar to his 2018 campaign, though perhaps he will progress up the podium with his Giro/Vuelta combination. Keep an eye on him.
Ion Izagirre (one of the Izagirre brothers) is a rider who can ride a decent general classification in the big races. He was 9th in the Tour of Spain (Vuelta) in 2018. He is usually best in week-long stage races: in the past he has won the Tour of Poland and been 2nd in the Tour of Switzerland. This year he will ride the same programme as Miguel Angel Lopez and his role is likely that of chief support rider for the young star. We reckon that he will make a perfectly good back-up should Lopez not make the grade.
Gorka Izagirre is Ion’s elder brother. On paper, Gorka is less successful than his little brother. Having said that, he is the one currently wearing the Spanish national road racing champion’s jersey. He can ride a decent general classification in week-long stage races, but is also one to watch during a breakaway, or as a key support rider for the team leader. His 2019 season is primarily focussed on the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain.