Lampre-Merida are pinning their hopes on Sacha Modolo re-signing with the team despite interest and the offer of more money from Etixx-QuickStep. The Italian WorldTour team have already seen Niccolò Bonifazio move to Trek Factory Racing for next year, while Rafael Valls is also expected to depart after confirming he would not re-sign with Lampre for 2016.
The Italian team are hoping that they can build their squad around former world champion Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi, Modolo, Davide Cimolai and a flock of young talent. They have already signed young riders, Simone Petilli for next season and picked up Edward Ravasi for the remainder of 2015. Along with a commitment to the more senior riders is a strong undercurrent for developing young, talented athletes. Even though Bonifazio has left the team, Lampre are seen as the squad that developed the rider.
Maximiliano Ariel Richeze, a rider close to Modolo, is set to move to Etixx-QuickStep with the Belgian team's manager, Patrick Lefevere, keen on using Modolo's leadout man as bait.
"We're talking to a few riders but no big transfers have been made at this point. Obviously losing Bonifazio was a big disappointment but we're waiting on Modolo to confirm on what he wants to do. Once we know with him it will be clearer as to what we can do with our budget and how much budget we have," Lampre Merida's Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.
Although Etixx may be offering a more substantial contract offer, Copeland is hoping that a more complete package will help keep Modolo with the team he's ridden for during the last two seasons.
"My personal feeling is that he'll stay. He's Italian, which is something we need, and it would be great if he stay. I know that he has an offer from Etixx. We've not matched it as much but we can offer the complete programme that he wants. We're offering him a more complete package. I think it's 70-30 per cent that he'll stay, but that's just my personal feeling."
One gap Copeland will certainly need to fill is the one left by Valls.
"I don't know if [Valls] put pen to paper yet but it look like he will be leaving. That's is unfortunate for us. I can understand, because he's had a fantastic season and he has offers. I don't know where he will go, and his agent hasn't told me.”
Lampre were negotiating with Pierre Rolland up until last week in their bid to find a stage racing GC talent, but the Frenchman will not be heading to Italy. He's rumoured to be move to Cannondale-Garmin, however the American team have not returned phone calls or messages regarding transfers.
"We were speaking to Rolland until the end of last week. For us he's a really interesting rider and someone who can go after GC at the Tour de France. His image is great and we were hoping to get him on board. I don't know if he's signed with someone else yet but it won't be with us," Copeland told Cyclingnews.
Much of Lampre's transfer activity over the coming weeks depends on the future of Modolo. If the rider stays then Copeland will add finishing touches to his squad but if Modolo departs then the hunt for a new sprinter will begin in earnest. In truth Copeland has already made a couple of enquires.
"It all depends on Modolo. If he leaves then we'll need a sprinter, someone like Coquard could be interesting for us. We've spoken to see if he's interested but the negotiations haven't started."
"We have Ulissi and we'd like him to step up a bit more next year in some of the one-week races. There are a few riders on the market but some of them are asking for too much money."