Cyclo-cross rider and Classics revelation Wout van Aert will decide his long-term future within the next fortnight with several WorldTour teams hoping he will break his contract for 2019 with Veranda’s Willlems-Crelan and step up a level.
Bahrain Merida, who have already signed Phil Bauhaus for next year and are set to announce Rohan Dennis later this summer, are leading the charge and have already offered Van Aert a contract for next year which would allow the 23-year-old to combine a slimmed down cyclo-cross campaign, as well as the Classics and a Grand Tour.
“We’ve made an official proposal, and we’ve made everything official that we can do in terms of getting him on board,” Bahrain-Merida’s Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.
"He’s still got a contract for 2019, so it’s a bit complicated from an administration standpoint with the cyclo-cross season. Whether it happens next year or not, I don’t know but we’re working on getting him onto the team. I feel confident given the way things have gone so far, but they’re just my sensations.”
Van Aert’s contract with his current team, Veranda’s Willlems-Crelan, could be a potential stumbling block. The Belgian team are looking to keep their star rider on-board for another season as they look to secure additional sponsorship. Reports in Belgium have indicated that supermarket chain Carrefour could come on board but only if Van Aert remains.
However, Van Aert’s move to WorldTour is a question of when, rather than if.
“I know he wants to go to a WorldTour team, even if cross can offer him more money. He wants to be a WorldTour rider in the future. It could also happen for 2020,” said Copeland.
Van Aert’s agent would not confirm the other teams that have either shown interest or made offers but he confirmed that a decision on Van Aert’s future would be made in the next two weeks.
“At this moment he has a contact until the end of 2019,” his agent told Cyclingnews. “Normally, we respect that contract but it’s also true that in the next weeks Wout will take some decisions on his long-term future. At this moment we’re talking to parties about his future. It’s not absolute that he wants to go WorldTour in 2019, but we want to do this in a fair way. He’s young and he’s ambitious but it’s too early for confirmations on plans.”
Nibali set to extend with Bahrain Merida until 2020
While Van Aert remains an open book on the transfer market, it looks as though Vincenzo Nibali will re-sign with Bahrain Merida in the next few weeks. The Italian is targeting the Tour de France in the coming weeks and met with the team’s management in early June to discuss terms. Although he already has a contract for 2019, the plan is that the Italian signs for an additional two years, with the aim of racing until the Tokyo Olympics.
“We spoke to him before his training camp. He still has a contract for next year. There’s no rush. His idea is to race until the Games in Tokyo, which would be another two years. There’s no rush at the moment, as he feels like this is his team,” Copeland said.