Astana signs Westra, makes waves with Pellizotti

Kazakh squad loads up for 2014, but with some controversy

Photo: Watson

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The first day of transfer season was a contentious one for Astana, as the team announced the signing of Dutchman Lieuwe Westra and Italian Franco Pellizotti.

Westra, a talented stage racer with a podium finish at Paris-Nice on his palmares, will join the Kazakh squad from Vacansoleil-DCM.

“Lieuwe is a very strong time trialist and climber, and joins Astana as a rider who could help Vincenzo Nibali next year at the Tour de France,” general manager Alexander Vinokourov said in a press release.

Westra’s contract runs 2014-15. Details of the contract were not disclosed.

The one-year Pellizotti signing may cause some consternation for Astana. The former Italian champion served a ban after being snared in the UCI Biological Passport anti-doping program in 2010. He returned to racing in May 2012 with Androni Giocattoli and won the national championship.

Vinokourov called Pellizotti “a veteran rider with more than 10 years of experience as a professional,” and said the team was “very happy to welcome him back among his friends and family.”

Astana is a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling — a group of teams voluntarily held to anti-doping standards that exceed the World Anti-Doping Code. MPCC rules require teams to wait two years beyond the end of the suspension before signing a rider that has served a doping ban. This means that Pellizotti would not be able to join the team until May 2014.

Astana director Guiseppe Martinelli — who worked with Pellizotti at Liquigas — said that team management would address the situation.

“This is a serious issue for us, and we take the MPCC very seriously. We will consult among ourselves over the next week to come up with a solution,” Martinelli said via a team spokesman. “We are looking at our options now. We want this to come out in the best possible solution for all parties involved.”

E-mail and phone messages to the MPCC for comment were not immediately returned.

European correspondent Andrew Hood contributed to this report.

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