The atmosphere at the Bahrain-Merida training camp in Catalonia this week was relaxed and upbeat as riders prepare for the new season but behind the scenes a temporary funding shortfall has forced the management to make some difficult financial decisions and delay the payment of riders’ salaries for December.
Cyclingnews understands that Vincenzo Nibali has also agreed to a temporary freeze of his significant monthly salary during the winter to help the team overcome the problems.
The Bahrain-Merida team management preferred not to reveal any details of the problems and said they were confident that the matter would soon be resolved. The UCI is apparently aware of the situation and accepted the delay in salary payments is a temporary problem.
Bahrain-Merida was awarded a UCI WorldTour licence for 2019 based on the business plan and sponsorship contracts submitted by the team for the new season, with McLaren coming on board as a partner in the team for 2019 and beyond. McLaren is also owned by the Bahrain royal family.
“We don’t comment on any financial details of the team. There has been a short delay due to administration and technical issues, but these will be resolved shortly. All the agreements we have, have been respected,” team management Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.
Nibali’s agent Jonny Carera refused to comment but Nibali confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday that his and other rider’ salary payments have recently been delayed.
“Things should be paid by the end of the month, that’s what’s been said. But it doesn’t only involve me,” Nibali said.
Nibali confirmed to Cyclingnews on Tuesday that he is open to offers from other teams for 2020 when his current contract with Bahrain-Merida ends.
He seems tempted by interest from Trek-Segafredo but other teams have shown interest. Bahrain-Merida are also keen to retain Nibali and are preparing to offer him a two-year contract for 2020 and 2021. He is due to make his season debut at the UAE Tour in late February and then target the Giro d’Italia and subsequently the Tour de France.