Reigning Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will start down his road to the Tour de France and a showdown with Chris Froome (Sky) at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina next month.
Joining Nibali will be some of the key teammates who will be supporting him as the Italian takes on the challenge of trying to dethrone Froome and the powerful Sky team.
Astana officials confirmed on Wednesday that Nibali would debut in January at the South American stage race, just as he has over the past few seasons. The Sicilian won the overall in 2010.
Joining Nibali will be several riders who will form a core part of the Astana push toward winning the Tour. Among them are Tanel Kangert, Fredrik Kessiakoff, Alessandro Vanotti, and newcomers Michele Scarponi and Mikel Landa.
Argentina will be the first chance for Nibali to check out new arrivals Scarponi (from Lampre-Merida) and Landa (from Euskaltel-Euskadi), who will provide more firepower in the mountains for Astana, already one of the deepest squads in the peloton.
Other riders expected to line up for Astana in July include Jakob Fuglsang, who rode into the top 10 in the 2013 Tour, as well as Andriy Grivko, who will open his season at the Santos Tour Down Under in January.
Also heading to Australia will be 2012 Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto and new arrival Lieuwe Westra (from Vacansoleil-DCM).
The team is wrapping up a preseason training camp in Spain this week before the holidays.
Astana roster for Tour de San Luís:
Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE)
Tanel Kangert (EST)
Mikel Landa (ESP)
Michele Scarponi (ITA)
Alessandro Vanotti (ITA)
Astana roster for Santos Tour Down Under:
Valerio Agnoli (ITA)
Enrico Gasparotto (ITA)
Francesco Gavazzi (ITA)
Andriy Grivko (UKR)
Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA)
Valentin Iglinskiy (KAZ)
Lieuwe Westra (NED)