Further details have emerged surrounding the new Bahrain team after it was announced earlier this week that Brent Copeland would manage the squad next year.
Copeland is the current general manager of Lampre-Merida but is set to take up a similar position at the Bahrain team for 2017 as they start a three-year project. The team’s budget is set to be in the region of 18 million Euro per-season with Vincenzo Nibali set to command a fee of around 3-3.5 million Euros per-year. The Italian is currently racing in Astana colours and cannot officially sign a deal until the UCI’s deadline of August 1.
Cyclingnews understands that the Bahrain team will bring several riders from the current Lampre-Merida team across including Louis Meintjes, who signed from MTN Quebeka last year. Lampre-Merida currently has around 15 riders under contract for 2017 but that is on the understanding that they have a WorldTour licence. At present no 2017 licences have been approved, with the UCI still yet to announce how their system will work in 2017.
The new Bahrain team are also interested in Lampre’s Diego Ulissi who had a strong Giro d’Italia and is currently out of contract for 2017. The team have also been linked with Rafal Majka but Cyclingnews understands that a deal has not yet been signed. The new Bahrain team have also been approached by Roman Kreuziger’s representatives but so far the Bahraini team have not offered the Czech rider a contract.
We also understand that Castelli will be the kit sponsor for the team and Merida will almost certainly supply the team with bikes and join as a secondary sponsor. The full team name has yet to be confirmed but one source told Cyclingnews that Bahrain-Merida was a front running option. Cyclingnews contacted Copeland but he declined to comment. He remains under contract with Lampre-Merida.
Such a scenario would leave Lampre’s future in the sport uncertain. The Italian press, however, have speculated that the remnants of the team could move into the Pro-Continental ranks. A move of this nature would leave Italy without a WorldTour team.