Caruso: Nibali's call persuaded me to join Bahrain Merida

After four years with BMC Racing, Damiano Caruso will reunite with Vincenzo Nibali. The pair rode together earlier in their careers at Liquigas and Cannondale before going their separate ways, but Nibali's personal intervention during contract negotiations earlier this summer persuaded Caruso to sign for Bahrain Merida on a two-year deal.

Caruso has forged a career for himself as one of the most respected and valued riders in the peloton. Although not a prolific winner he has been highly consistent throughout his years in the sport and in some regards is the perfect WorldTour specimen - a rider who can gain valuable WorldTour points, while also working in the services of others during key points in the season. For the 30-year-old, however the chance to win a Grand Tour with Nibali was a major draw in moving to Bahrain Merida after the uncertain summer at BMC Racing.

"I was a teammate with him at Liquigas. It's nice that we work together. I've never won a big Tour with a leader. That's my dream, and to do it with Vincenzo. Over the last four years I've tried with Richie and van Garderen but it's never happened. Maybe next year or the year after I'll reach that goal,” Caruso told Cyclingnews during a brief sit-down interview at the Canadian WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal.

"I've found a new motivation but I've always wanted to give 100 per cent, whether it's with Bahrain or previous teams. Vincenzo tipped the balance when it came to deciding my future. When he called me and he said that he needed me to join it was a proud moment."

Caruso will of course link up with Nibali before they both pull on Bahrain Merida kit in 2019. The two Italian swill be in the national team for the UCI Road World Championships, with Caruso likely to play a key support role as Nibali hopes to challenge for the rainbow jersey in Austria.

Nibali's preparation for the Worlds has not been ideal. He crashed out of the Tour de France and sustained a serious back injury, and although he has tapped his way through the Vuelta a Espana, few know whether he can reach his peak form in time.

"It's important to see how Vincenzo goes. He's our leader on paper but if he's not in the best shape then we'll need to change our plan. We can have different cards to play, maybe me, Moscon, De Marchi," Caruso told Cyclingnews.

“So maybe we'll do something before the last lap. For sure, a rider like me can't wait until the last lap. We don't have much chance if we wait until the last lap with guys like Alaphilippe in form."

"Nibali is on the up and the Worlds are his goal for the second half of the season. I'm honestly not sure if even he knows exactly where he is in terms of form but the most important thing now is for us to remain calm. He's a smart guy and I think that a week before the race he'll tell us what the situation is."

Caruso's post-race Worlds schedule has yet to be decided. He may close out his BMC Racing contract in Italy, although China is another option should the team decide on a different programme.

"It's been a long season but I've had some good races. There's still a bit of fuel left in the tank so I'll do two more races with the national team before probably doing the Worlds TTT with BMC Racing, and then it's the road race. After that I'll decide if I go to China or ride the Italian one-day races."

And although his BMC Racing days are almost done, Caruso has remained respectful to the end.

"This team gave me a lot. They gave me the chance to improve a lot, and the chance to ride for myself in several week-long races, and even once at the Giro where I was eighth on GC. It's been a great experience but sometimes in life you have to change."

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