Astana look to Guardini for wins

Astana are looking to new Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini to deliver stage wins at the season-opening Santos Tour Down Under next month.

The 23-year-old will make his debut for the Kazakh team in Adelaide after joining from Professional Continental outfit Farnese Vini - Selle Italia.

Astana have named a strong line-up for the race, with 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Maxim Iglinskiy and 2012 Amstel Gold winner Enrico Gasparotto both in their ranks.

However, it is Guardini whom general manager Alexandre Vinokourov hopes can put the team on the podium.

The Olympic champion said: "Adelaide should watch out for Guardini - he will make his presence known at the finish."

Guardini announced his arrival as a top-level sprinter in May by pipping Mark Cavendish to victory on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia.

That win caught the eye of Astana team manager Guiseppe Martinelli, who is now expecting his new hope to make a big impression in Australia.

"Guardini has all of the characteristics of becoming a world-class sprinter," he said. "His explosive jump and tremendous leg speed took him to more than 20 top-10 finishes last season, including a win at the Giro d'Italia against the world champion, and made him a highly desirable prospect for 2013.

"Astana is sending a strong squad in support of Andrea."

Astana are yet to name the seventh member of their squad for Australia after mistakenly listing Andrey Kashechkin in their original line-up, despite the Kazakh having been suspended by the team last week for refusing to sign their code of conduct.

Meanwhile, AG2R La Mondiale have also announced their riders for the race, with former Team Sky sprinter Davide Appollonio and Belarusian Yauheni Hutarovich both set to make their debuts for the French outfit.

For BMC, Italian Ivan Santaromita has been added to the team in place of Alessandro Ballan, who was seriously injured in a training accident in Spain earlier this month.

The Santos Tour Down Under takes place from January 22-27, with the People's Choice Classic criterium preceding it on January 20.