The organizers of the Giro d?Italia have confirmed that Astana will take part in the three-week race, replacing the Italian NGC team.
News of Astana being given a late invitation to the Giro was leaked by the teams? press officer on Saturday and Giro organizers RCS Sport confirmed the news on Sunday, confirming the names of the 22 teams and their team leaders for the Giro.
Giro director Angelo Zomegnan had refused Astana a place back in February when he announced the initial 22 team line-up. However following pressure from the Kazakhstan government, talks began a month ago and Zomegnan agreed to find room for Astana in exchange for the team bringing Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Tour of Romandie winner Andreas Kloden to Italy.
According to the RCS Sport press release, the Astana team for the Giro consists of: Levi Leipheimer, Alberto Contador, Vladimir Gusev, Antonio Colom, Maxime Iglinsky, Dimitri Muravyev, Andrei Mizourov, Andreas Kloden and Assan Bazayev.
Leipheimer is currently traveling to Europe from the USA to make it to Palermo for Wednesday night before all the riders face pre-race blood tests on Thursday night. Alberto Contador was on holiday after some major dental surgery but will be in Palermo.
Andreas Kloden is expected to be the Astana team leader for the Giro after showing some impressive form when winning the Tour of Romandie that ended on Sunday.
He won the time trial stage in the six-day Swiss race and then defend his lead in Saturday?s mountain stage. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) was second overall at 35 seconds and Marco Pinotti (High Road) was third at 43 seconds.
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) won the final stage in Lausanne, beating Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) on the uphill finish. Britain?s Mark Cavendish finished sixth.
The final 22 teams and leaders named for the Giro d?Italia are as follows:
AG2R-LA MONDIALE (Valjavec, Nocentini)
BARLOWORLD (Soler, Gasparotto)
CAISSE D?EPARGNE (Karpets, J. Rodriguez, Rujano)
COFIDIS (Nuyens, Verbrugghe)
CSF GROUP-NAVIGARE (Sella, Richeze, Laverde)
DIQUIGIOVANNI-ANDRONI (Simoni, Hondo, Nardello)
EUSKALTEL EUSKADI (Landaluze)
FRANCAISE DES JEUX (Le Boulanger)
GEROLSTEINER (Rebellin, Forster, Fothen)
HIGH ROAD (Cavendish, Pinotti)
LAMPRE (Bruseghin, Lorenzetto)
LIQUIGAS (Bennati, Nibali, Pellizotti)
LPR BRAKES (Di Luca, Savoldelli)
QUICK STEP (Bettini, Garate, Visconti)
RABOBANK (Menchov, Brown)
SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT (Riccò, Piepoli)
SLIPSTREAM (Backstedt, Millar, Vandevelde, Zabriskie)
TEAM CSC McGee, Voigt, O?Grady)
TEAM MILRAM (Zabel, Astarloa)
TINKOFF CREDIT SYSTEMS (Petrov, Brutt, Ignatiev, Mazzanti).