Despite losing four riders over the course of this year’s Tour de France and fielding the smallest team in the race, Kazakhstan’s Astana Pro team placed 18th in the overall standings and Astana Pro team rider Jakob Fuglsang finished seventh overall in the multi-week race that ended July 21.
The 28-year-old Danish cyclist, who joined the team this year, also had the team’s best individual stage result with a second place in the ninth stage of the race. Placing a rider in the overall top 10 had been the team’s goal from the beginning of the season.
Astana’s riders started off well with a seventh place finish in stages two and three by Francesco Gavazzi. However, bad luck also arrived early, with rider Andrey Kashechkin withdrawing in stage three because of illness and climbers Fredrik Kessiakoff and Janez Brajkovic both crashing, sustaining injuries and withdrawing from stage six. “Six guys now have to do the work of nine for the next two and a half weeks,” Kessiakoff said after the crash.
Astana’s cyclists failed to crack the top ten in stages five and six, but Gavazzi came back to finish sixth in stage seven and Fuglsang made his presence felt with a second-place finish in stage nine. “We got over the final climb and started the descent and I was hoping that they wouldn’t catch us but never certain that we could make it. … My race with Martin [Daniel Martin of team Garmin Sharp] came to the final kilometres and then in a sprint he took the final turn ahead of me and got the win. … In any case, it was a good day for the team after losing three riders in the first week.” Fuglsang said after the stage was completed.
Fuglsang stayed in the top ten for several stages after that, with a fourth-place finish in stage 13 that pushed him to sixth in the overall rankings, his highest rank of the tour. Fuglsang placed seventh again in stage 15, eighth in stage 17 and 10th in stage 18, where the Astana team lost another rider when Alexey Lutsenko withdrew.
“We lost four riders along the road to Paris, and we were the smallest team left at the end of the race, with just five men on bikes. But we also helped Jakob get to seventh and stay there, and in the final week in the Alps, when the other teams had two or even three riders climbing with their leaders, Jakob was making smart choices and racing with great intelligence and strength. We are proud of Jakob and proud of the guys for a job well done,” General Manager Alexandr Vinokurov said at the end of the tour.
Coming after Astana team member Vincenzo Nibali’s victory in the Giro d’Italia, manager Giuseppe Martinelli said the team’s goal at the Tour de France was to get a rider in the top ten overall and fight for individual stage victories. “We achieved our goal at the Giro, now in the Tour we want to have a team around Jakob and try to win a stage. Why not? We have riders who have the ability to win,” Martinelli said before the start of this year’s tour.
Fuglsang recapped the team’s journey after the race on Sunday. “We set a goal at the beginning of the season that brought me here to Paris today. Together with the managers and directors we prepared training camps, a race schedule and specific work to bring me into this race. The Tour de France is like no other bike race in the world, and we knew that a top 10 was already an extremely difficult goal to accomplish. Thanks to my teammates, our soigneurs and mechanics, the directors and staff and to our technical sponsors at Specialised Racing, Campagnolo and Corima, we were able to finish in seventh overall at the 100th tour, and we accomplished our goal,” Fuglsang said on Sunday.
Astana Pro Team riders Janez Brajkovic, Assan Bazayev, Jakob Fuglsang, Enrico Gasparotto, Francesco Gavazzi, Andrey Kashechkin, Fredrik Kessiakov, Alexey Lutsenko and Dmitriy Muravyev started the race.