Vincenzo Nibali, one of only six riders ever to have won all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, has, as expected, signed as team leader for the new Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team.
The Sicilian is the first rider to be confirmed by the team, which was officially launched earlier this week when it announced its sponsorship by the Taiwan-based bike manufacturer.
He said: “I was immediately fascinated by the idea of a strong project plan built around me. I have believed in the team from day one, because it has a clear vision and is to be carried out by some of the best professionals in the sport.
“This trust and confidence in me made me take the final decision for this new exciting adventure of my career. I can’t wait to meet their expectations at the most important races in the world wearing the jersey of Bahrain-Merida.”
Nibali won his second Giro d’Italia title in May this year following a storming victory on Stage 19, when he pulled back almost 4 minutes on race leader Esteban Chavez of Orica-GreenEdge, before taking the race lead from the Colombian the following day.
His previous Giro d’Italia victory came in 2013, three years after he won his first Grand Tour, the 2010 Vuelta a Espana. He completed his hat-trick with victory in the 2014 Tour de France, joining Alberto Contador as the only current rider to have won all three races.
Italian national road champion in 2014 and 2015, Nibali also won last year’s edition of Il Lombardia. He joined Astana in 2013 after seven seasons with Liquigas.
The 31-year-old’s new team is aiming to secure a UCI WorldTour licence for next year.
However, human rights campaigners have called on the governing body not to award one due to the involvement in it of Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, son of King Fahd, who has had allegations of torture made against him.
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission established by the UCI said in its report published almost 18 months ago that cycling should have a “fit and proper person” test for people involved in team management
UCI president Brian Cookson said in March last year that the organisation would “Work to enshrine a fit-and-proper-persons requirement in the team licensing process, focused on the key roles in the staff, such as sports directors and doctors.”
Other than some changes with respect to people with doping-related convictions, no changes have been made, nor is it clear whether measures contemplated by the UCI would ultimately apply to those not directly involved in team management or what evidence might be needed for an individual to fail such a test.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.