Astana left without a top GC captain; Vinokourov disappointed to see Aru go

Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov couldn’t hide his disappointment that Fabio Aru decided to jump ship.

The Italian star left the team where he made his pro debut in 2012, and penned a three-year deal to join UAE-Emirates. In what appeared to be an open secret was a bit of a shock, at least according to Vinokourov.

“Aru had another optional year with us, and he never warned us of his desire to leave,” Vinokourov told L’Equipe. “We asked him what his plans were on numerous occasions, but he never answered us.”

Aru’s exit leaves Astana in a bind. One of the peloton’s best-funded teams will enter next year’s WorldTour racing season without a major grand tour contender on its roster.

Vinokourov said the team only learned of Aru’s departure when he read the official team press release Tuesday, just hours before the course presentation of the 2018 Tour de France.

“I only learned about it in the press release. I am very disappointed in him,” Vinokourov said. “It puts us in a difficult situation because of the time of year. It will be impossible to find a replacement of his level, someone able to win the Tour de France.”

With most of the major GC stars committed to contracts, Vinokourov will have almost no chance to find a top rider to take Aru’s place at this stage of a busy transfer season.

Vinokourov said that the team explored signing Rigoberto Urán when it appeared Cannondale-Drapac might fold. He also revealed that Nairo Quintana’s agent approached the team during the Tour about possible interest in signing with the Kazakhs.

Neither of those options panned out. Urán is staying with the renamed Education First-Drapac team for 2018, while Quintana also confirmed intention to stay with Movistar.

Without Aru, and the departure of Vincenzo Nibali to Bahrain-Merida at the end of 2015 coupled with the tragic death of Michele Scarponi this spring, leaves the powerful Astana team without a marquee rider to lead in the grand tours.

Jakob Fuglsang, seventh in the 2013 Tour, will be back for next season. Injury knocked the 32-year-old out of this year’s Tour after taking a dramatic victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. Miguel Ángel López, 23, will see more opportunities, but he only completed his first grand tour last month at the Vuelta a España, riding to eighth overall with two stage wins. Neither is considered front-line yellow jersey contenders.

Aru is the latest arrival to the bolstered UAE-Emirates roster for 2018 that also includes new arrivals Dan Martin, Alexander Kristoff, and Rory Sutherland.

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Lawson Craddock: ‘The 2018 season definitely needs to be different from 2017’

NANNING, China (VN) — American Lawson Craddock’s “2018 season definitely needs to be different” after overdoing it in 2017.

Craddock, who recently re-signed with Cannondale-Drapac for 2018, began the 2017 season too hot and paid the price.

“Yeah, it definitely needs to be different in 2018!” Craddock told VeloNews. “It’s been a pretty rough year for me both on and off the bike.

“Honestly I’m just looking to ending this year on a decent note and coming back next year and showing what I’m capable of, which is a pretty high standard I hold myself too.”

Craddock sat waiting for the team’s meeting ahead of stage two of the Tour of Guangxi in South China. He listened to the sports director and prepared for his final race of 2017.

This 2017 season he had hoped to perform with the best in the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France, but over-training and over-dieting left him exhausted.

“This year, it’s not like I had a weird issue, I was just too motivated early on in the year and over-cooked it,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you keep trying to come back and you aren’t prepared to do so. And some personal stuff too.

“I know I’m capable of great things in this sport. I’ve shown a glimmer of that before. I like to come out and show that I can be there with the best. And I know I can be there with the best. I’ll just focus on what I need to do to do that.”

The 25-year-old Texan raced professionally with Giant-Sunweb for 2014 and 2015. He joined Cannondale-Drapac for 2016. In those seasons, he rode the Tour de France, placed third and fifth overall in the Tour of California, and ninth overall in the País Vasco. In 2017, he expected more of the same, or better.

After a disappointing start, he tried to reach his best in time for the Tour of California in May. That ended with only 113th overall. Other races ended with a DNF – did not finish – beside his name.

“It just hasn’t been an easy year all around. If anything, it’s given me a chip on my shoulder to come back and prove next year that I do belong in the top-level of this sport.”

Craddock signed a one-year extension with the Slipstream Sports team, which came back from near collapse thanks to new sponsor EF Education First. He is due to meet with the managers this winter to discuss his race schedule. He maintains high ambitions.

“I’d love to get a victory because I still haven’t won a race yet in four years of the WorldTour. It’s not easy, for sure,” he added. “I want to have a good result in the early spring races like País Vasco and try to go for something at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and find myself back in the Tour de France and maybe go for a stage win there.”

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