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Italian cycling transfer market kicks off as Riccò quits Flaminia

New UCI rules introduced this year have officially created a three-month transfer period in cycling -between August 1 to October 20, and the changes in the rules have sparked a series of announcements from riders and teams in the last few days.

Until this year, riders and teams could only sign contracts after August 1 but not make any official announcements until September 1.

Today Alberto Contador confirmed he will ride for Saxo-Bank-SunGard in 2011 and other announcements of major transfers are expected in coming days.

Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali have already extended their contracts with Liquigas-Doimo but Cyclingnews understands that Riccardo Riccò is close to signing with a major ProTour team, perhaps in time to ride the Vuelta a Espana that starts in Seville on August 28. Riccò served a 20-month ban for doping after testing positive for CERA in the 2008 Tour de France but made a comeback this spring.

Riccò bought his way out of his contract with Ceramica Flaminia for 75,000 Euro and is considering offers from two teams. His agent refused to name them but did reveal he has previously held negotiations with Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere.

However it seems that Riccò is most likely to ride for a Spanish team, especially if Eusebio Unzue manages to secure funding to continue his team. Spanish mobile giant Telefonica and Banco Santander have been reported as possible sponsors although no formal announcement has yet been made. Riccò could ride in Ceramica Flaminia jersey for the last time at the GP di Camaiore in Italy on Saturday with an announcement about his future expected next week.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, new Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti will not move to Liquigas-Doimo in 2011 as had been expected. It seems the Tour of Turkey winner was persuaded to stay because the Tuscan-based Professional Continental team could have folded without him.

Liquigas-Doimo is now rumoured to be considering signing Damiano Cunego instead of Visconti as a team leader for hilly one-day races. Cunego has yet to win a race in 2010 but is still hugely popular in Italy.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.