Vincenzo Nibali will lead the new team after several years at Astana. Also confirmed for Bahrain-Merida are Giovanni Visconti (from Movistar), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data), Borut Bozic (Cofidis), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF), Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), Grega Bole (Nippo Fantini) and Chun Kai Feng (Lampre-Merida). Several members of Nibali's entourage at Astana will also be part of the team, including coach Paolo Slongo and personal soigneur Michele Pallini. Former Lampre-Merida team manger Brent Copeland is the team manager.
Gasparotto is 34 but revived his career with victory at this year's Amstel Gold Race while riding for the Belgian Wanty Groupe Gobert team. His WorldTour ranking points will be vital as Bahrain-Merida fights with Bora-Hansgrohe and Dimension Data for the two remaining places in the 2017 WorldTour.
Gasparotto turned professional in 2005 and has proved to be a specialist in hilly Classics and one-day races. He won the 2012 Amstel Gold Race and took a second Amstel Gold Race victory this year, beating Michael Valgren in a sprint after attacking on the late Cauberg climb. He also finished second at Brabantse Pijl, fifth at La Fleche Wallonne and sixth at the Tour of Belgium.
In June the Wanty Groupe Gobert team stopped Gasparotto and teammate Björn Thurau from starting the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine after tests carried out on behalf of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) association revealed they had low cortisol levels. Unusual low cortisol levels do not violate UCI or WADA rules, however the MPCC's article 9 requires that a rider sits out from racing for a minimum of eight days as a health precaution. Low cortisol levels can point to the use of cortisone or be due to other health problems. Cortisone abuse has been a serious problem in the past because it is difficult to detect and can be hidden by medical needs.
Gasparotto is currently in action at the Tour of Britain and expected to be named as part of the Italian team for next weekend's European road race championships.
"First I am happy to have signed with this new project. In the last two years I have learned a lot and for that reason I want to thank to my recent team," he said when the announcement for his future was made.
"Then if I think about the future, I am really happy to be back to a group of people that I already know and next year will be my fifth year together with Nibali and even more with his staff. I am happy to be a part of a big project and I hope to be an important person to grow up the project in the next years."
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