Sonny Colbrelli is the latest rider to be confirmed as part of the new Bahrain Merida team for 2017, with the Italian expected to lead the team in the Classics. The 26-year-old from Lake Garda has spent the last six seasons with the Bardiani-CSF Professional Continental team but will step up a level and have more responsibility in 2017.
Already confirmed for Bahrain Merida are team leader Vincenzo Nibali, Giovanni Visconti, Manuele Boaro, Borut Bozic, Kanstantsin Siutsou. Nibali's younger brother Antonio is also expected to be part of the team. Brent Copeland is busy building the rest of the team, with Gorazd Stangelj and Mario Chiesa confirmed as directeur sportif and Paolo Slongo as head coach.
Colbrelli used his fast finish to win a stage at the Tour de Limousin and two stages at the Tour du Poitou Charentes in France in the last ten days but he secured his place at the Bahrain Merida team much earlier in the season.
"My third place at the Amstel Gold Race was a turning point in my career," Colbrelli explained to Gazzetta dello Sport, recalling how he won the bunch sprint behind Enrico Gasparotto and Michael Valgren in the hilly Netherlands Classic.
"It was an important shop window and changed everything. The week after there was a first contact. Things were a bit confused at first because there were a lot of rumours about the team but I called Vincenzo and he reassured me about the project. We rode the 2014 Ponferrada world championships together and I'm proud to be part of a team that includes a 'campione' like him."
Colbrelli has now won 12 races during his six seasons as a professional thanks to often having a protected and leadership role with Bardiani-CSF. With the Bahrain Merida team determined to have a WorldTour licence, 2017 will be a step up for Colbrelli.
"It's an important moment in my career, it's my first time in a WorldTour team," he explained. "I've developed over the last four years. At first I was Sacha Modolo’s leadout man, then when he left I had more of a leadership role. I've got to thank the Bardiani team and the Reverberi family, who have helped me improve as a rider.
Colbrelli is expected to be part of the Italian team for the first elite European road race championships in Brittany on September 18 and could also have place in the Italian world championships squad for Qatar. He will soon also sit down with his new teammates and staff to think about 2017 and his debut with Bahrain Merida.
"We're going meet up soon but I imagine my goals will be the Classics: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race. I’m not a pure sprinter but after my result at the Amstel Gold Race thus year, I'm convinced I can do something in the Classics."
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