Nibali expects Astana to be in WorldTour
Vincenzo Nibali is confident that his Astana will be awarded a WorldTour licence for 2015 despite the Kazakh team's recent spate of positive doping tests. Astana's management was called before the UCI’s Licence Commission this month to explain itself and an announcement on the 2015 WorldTour line-up is expected this week.
"I only know what's been writing in the newspapers and online, I don't know anything else," Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport, before looking to defend Astana from criticism. "It's easy to take aim at the big teams, it's what happened to Sky too. But I don't think there will be big problems for the licence, and meanwhile my plans haven't changed."
Nibali confirmed that he is likely to forgo the Giro d'Italia in order to focus on the defence of his Tour de France title, with Fabio Aru instead set to lead Astana's challenge in the corsa rosa. "It's going to difficult to ride the Giro d'Italia because Astana has the Aru option too," Nibali conceded. "The Tour de France remains the most important objective of my season."
The Sicilian will begin his 2015 campaign at the Dubai Tour and he said that his pre-Tour de France programme is going to be very similar to the one that carried him to overall victory last July. "Considering how hard the final week of the Tour is going to be, I'll more or less follow the same preparation as 2014."
Nibali was speaking in Calenzano, near Florence, on Monday, where he was awarded the prestigious Giglio d'Oro award for best Italian rider for the fourth time in his career. On Tuesday, Nibali was due to travel to nearby Montecatini Terme for Astana's first pre-season gathering.
Brussels wants to host 2019 Tour de France start
On the same day that ASO confirmed that the Grand Départ of the Tour de France will return to its homeland in 2016, Brussels announced its candidacy to host the start in 2019, according to Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure.
The Belgian capital has hosted the Tour on 15 occasions, most recently when Alessandro Petacchi won there in 2010, but the Grand Départ has not been held there since 1958, when André Darrigade claimed the opening leg from Brussels to Ghent.
Brussels' candidacy for the 2019 Tour start was launched on Monday by local government, who announced it in tandem with plans to host the European Athletics Championships in 2022.
New Israeli team backed by Sagan and Lombardi
A new Israeli-registered Continental team backed by Peter Sagan is set to be established for the 2015 season, according to a report on ciclismointernacional.com. Cycling Academy Team p/b Sagan is the brainchild of Sagan's agent Giovanni Lombardi and the Israeli former Saxo Bank rider Ran Margaliot, and is set to be officially unveiled on Wednesday.
The team will feature 12 riders in its maiden season, five from Israel and seven from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The long-term objective is to bring Israeli riders to the Tour de France, and the team is set to make its competitive debut at January's Tour de San Luis, where Lombardi is involved in the race organisation.
"We're working hard to be in San Luis in good shape," Margaliot told ciclismointernacional.com.
Sagan's role with the team will reportedly be to assess and advise the riders at regular intervals over the course of the season.
Serpa extends with Lampre-Merida
Lampre-Merida has confirmed that José Serpa will remain at the squad in 2015. The Colombian arrived at Lampre at the beginning of last season after a long spell with Gianni Savio's Androni set-up, and he claimed victory at the Trofeo Laigueglia last February.
"The confirmation of Serpa in the roster for 2015 will contribute to keep a very high level of quality in our climbers group. Josè is a key rider for his experience, his cycling skills and his reliability: he has been always more than competitive in all the top races he took part in," Lampre manager Brent Copeland said in a statement released by the team. "Moreover, Josè is a very good guy and he's appreciated by all the team members."