In terms of performance and results, the first 3 years of Team Astana Continental’s existence were marked by both highs and lows. The young team started with a bang in its inaugural year, chalking up impressive stage victories and strong overall finishes in multiple events across the world. Though they scored fewer victories in 2013, the team more than made up for that in the fateful 2014 season. Here is a short overview of the achievements of the junior Kazakh team in its early years, arranged in chronological order:
2012: Impressive Beginnings
The first ever stage finish in a UCI event for Continental Astana was achieved in the Vuelta Independencia Nacional in February 2012 by Ruslan Tleubayev. In the event which took place in the Dominican Republic, the Kazakh rider rode to victory in Stage 2.
Nikita Stalnov scored the team’s second stage victory a few months later in April, in the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon and managed to place second in General Classification.
Team Astana Continental’s first outright victory in a day event was achieved in June 2012, when Ruslan Tleubayev rode to victory in the Coppa della Pace one day race in Italy, lifting the Trofeo F.lli Anelli.
The team tasted further success in Italy, with a stage victory in the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia, as well as two more in the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc.
Maxat Ayazbaev topped the General Classifications table in the 62nd Tour of Bulgaria, securing the first big win of its kind for Team Astana Continental in September 2012. Two other Astana riders also became stage winners in that event. Nikita Stalnov raced to the top in the Mountains category, adding to the success of the team in Bulgaria.
At the 79th World Championship Road Race, Astana grabbed attention with a commanding win for Alexey Lutsenko in the 177km Valkenburg One Day Race.
Astana Continental also scored stage victories in UCI races in Azerbaijan (Baku) and France (Alsace).
2013: Setting Modest Pace
A cursory glance at the results for Team Astana in 2013 shows up only 3 events, but they were strong finishes nonetheless. Daniil Fominykh won the Team Trial Event at the Asian Cycling Championships in New Delhi, India in March.
In the Chinese Tour of Qinghai Lake event, Team Astana Continental secured one stage victory through Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy, and had a strong finish overall in the General Classification tables. Both Nepomnyachshiy and Daniil Fominykh secured second and third overall in that event.
Maxat Ayazbaev rounded off the results for Astana in 2013 with another victory, this time in the One Day Race Event in the 37th Trofeo Internazionale Bastianelli in Italy.
2014: Success and Heartbreak on the Home Front
Before their fall from grace in 2014, Astana Continental posted victories in events in China, Kazakhstan, France and the Dominican Republic.
Nurbolat Kulimbetov scored a stage victory in the Vuelta Independencia Nacional in February.
In France, the team had two stage wins in the Tour de Normandie and Le Tour de Bretagne, through the efforts of Marco Benfatto and Vadim Galeyev.
The 2014 Asian Cycling Championships at their home turf in Astana brought both success and the onset of disaster for Astana Continental. Vadim Galeyev rode to victory in the Road Race while several Astana Continental riders finished in the top 10. But Viktor Okishev’s win in the Time Trials would eventually be rescinded due to a positive drug test.
In the Kazakh National Championships in 2014, Team Astana absolutely dominated with 7 riders finishing in the top ten, and Ilya Davidenok scoring the win.
Despite scoring some noteworthy victories, 2014 would end in disaster for Team Astana Continental. A series of positive drug tests similar to the one involving Viktor Okishev brought a cloud of suspicion over the team and led to its eventual suspension by the end of 2014.