Astana Pro Team Season Review
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
The team's spring was built upon the Ardennes and mostly the performances that Jakob Fuglsang showcased this year. On the cobbles Lutsenko entered the opening weekend very well with a fourth place in Omloop but he decided to focus on the stage-races and the Ardennes hence the team lacked there, but there were no specialists to take his place. As for the hilly classics it was Fuglsang all over, he was second in Strade Bianche and then was shining in April as he finished third in Amstel, climbed onto second on Fleche and then finalized his first part of the season with a magnificent and dominant win in Liège.
But where the team really shined was here, it wasn't even the case of having a rider, or two, or a specific group having success, the wins came from February to April thick and fast and with a lot of variaton, both in the riders and in the race categories. Ion Izagirre won the Volta a Valencia and capped of Basque Country too, Luis Leon Sanchez won Murcia, Gorka Izagirre won the French Tour de la Provence, Alexey Lutsenko brutalized Oman with GC and three stage wins, Merhawi Kudus took Rwanda where the team also net three stage wins, Fuglsang himself took the Vuelta a Andalucia and Miguel Angel Lopez took strong wins in Colombia 2.1 and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Reading this is just terrifying, I can clearly recall being in February reading about the records Astana were setting with such domination. Alongside these came some strong results and a couple of wins both in Tirreno and Paris-Nice.
Obviously this pace couldn't be kept but soon enough the team took a dominant and controled win in the Dauphiné, and until the end of the season there was still room for a couple more stage-races in the bank with Lutsenko taking home the Artic Race of Norway and Yuriy Natarov winning the Tour of Almaty, the team's home race.
Although the team excelled brilliantly in the week-long races the expectations were very high for the Grand Tours aswell, where Miguel Angel Lopez would in theory excell and wherw Fuglsang would again target the Tour with his rediscovered untouchable legs. And to be honest, I think most people would say it ended up a disapointing season in this precise subject but I disagree, with Lopez once again really having his GC stint ruined by mechanical problems, punctures, hell even spectators causing him to crash, he finished seventh but very agressive until the end but the team net three wins, two from Pello Bilbao and Dario Cataldo taking a big one aswell, and in the Vuelta it was a very similar scenario, Lopez had some bad luck but ultimately had some bad days which had him finish fifth but the team won the opening TTT and Fuglsang took a strong breakaway win, adding to some days in red it was still a successful stint.
The real downpoint was the Tour, Fuglsang wasn't as strong which was somewhat expected as he was never a 3-week specialist, but he was still on track to a Top 10 until a crash took him out, it was a bit of a disapointment but the team was racing very well until the very end and the feeling of acomplishment they gave even before the race started meant they had no real pressure to obtain results.
As it was for most of the season the team's depth was really noticeable here, with riders such as Gorka Izagirre and Davide Villella peaking late on the season there was a lot of consistency that was shown via other riders sneaking in the results sheets, Lutsenko took the final two wins of the season in the Italian Autumn classics alongside Yevgeniy Gidich wraping up the count in Cro Race already in October. Without adding the wins but having Gorka Izagirre fourth in San Sebastian, a couple of other podium places and Fuglsang finishing the year strong again with a fourth in Lombardia, it was definetely still a strong way to finish of a great year.
Wins (WT): 37 (15)
Highlight: Jakob Fuglsang's win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Best Performer: Jakob Fuglsang
Biggest Surprise: Alexey Lutsenko
Negative Surprise: Omar Fraile