The 2016 race season has hardly started but that has not stopped rider negotiations beginning for next season.
One of the riders at the top of many team managers' shopping list is Vincenzo Nibali and Lampre-Merida team boss, Brent Copeland has confirmed to Cyclingnews that the Italian team have already opened talks with the current Astana man.
Nibali won the 2014 Tour de France but suffered in 2015 and despite a scattering of highlights was a distant fourth in the Tour de France. He was disqualified from the Vuelta for taking a tow from a team car, and the relationship between himself and the Astana management appeared strained on several occasions. The rise of Fabio Aru only highlighted the growing tension and with Nibali out of contract at the end of this season, and the wrong side of 30, the chances of a move are high.
Riders can not sign for new teams until the UCI’s August 1 deadline but Copeland has told Cyclingnews that, “the negotiations have started between Nibali’s agents, the Carera brothers, there is interest from both sides. For us, it would be a huge return on investment for both the two major sponsors of the team, Lampre and Merida, to have an Italian rider of Vincenzo’s quality on the only worldTour Italian team. We obviously have to respect the UCI transfer rules, regulations and times but for now I can confirm there is interest from both parties.
“Vincenzo is a rider who brings results in both Grand Tours as well as one-day classic races. This is a quality which is difficult to find in modern day cycling, thus it's the reason for even more interest, which we are putting into this project. As well as the fact that our future GC rider, youngster Louis Meintjes can only but learn from a talent such as Vincenzo, as well as our other hugely talented rider Diego Ulissi, who lives in the same town as Vincenzo, namely Lugano, and they can form a good combo on the team where they train together ”
Nibali has previously been linked to Trek-Segafredo too with the team announcing an Italian co-sponsor starting this year. Trek had also been linked to American rider Tejay van Garderen but Cyclingnews understand that any possible transfer move will not go through.
Lampre made a number of signings head of this season including the talented South African Louis Meintjes, Yukiya Arashiro, and Matej Mohoric.