Cyclingnews understands that Peter Sagan could ride for the Astana team in 2017 and beyond after reports emerged from within the Kazakhstani team that negotiations are happening with the current world champion. The deal would be worth €5 million per season, with Juraj Sagan, another rider and two staff members expected to move with Sagan.
Specialized is apparently closely involved in any deal and could cover a percentage of Sagan’s salary. However, the US bike brand recently announced a three per cent reduction in its global workforce and is determined to be used by teams to make up for any sponsorship shortfalls. Specialized only has a contract with the Etixx-QuickStep team for 2017 and has yet to decide and finalise other team sponsorships. Specialized refused to comment about Sagan and Astana when contacted by Cyclingnews.
Sagan has long been the centre of the transfer market after Oleg Tinkov confirmed that he would quit the sport after 2016. Sagan has a contract with the Russian WorldTour team for 2017 but Cyclingnews understands that a gentleman’s agreement exists to rip up the world champion’s 2017 contract if the Tinkoff team fails to find a sponsor, if Sagan opts to join a new team.
Tinkoff team manager Stefano Feltrin faces a race against time to find a new title sponsor to fund the team following the loss of Tinkoff bank. Feltrin was at the Tour of California and has given himself until the end of the Giro d’Italia to find a solution. When contacted by Cyclingnews, Feltrin denied any knowledge of any deal between Sagan and Astana. He is apparently working on a solution that could also involve Specialized and so retain Sagan.
Sagan’s agent Giovanni Lombardi has been in talks with possible new teams in recent months but has always refused to comment, preferring a low profile as he works on a deal. Under UCI rules a team cannot officially ‘recruit’ or conclude a contract outside the official contract window that lasts from August 1 to December 31. Negotiations can be held but UCI rules also prohibit teams and riders from revealing any details outside of the transfer window.
Sagan was linked to the Etixx-QuickStep during the Classics and was considered a natural heir to Tom Boonen. However, team manager Patrick Lefevere has apparently still to confirm his full sponsorship for beyond 2018 and is also happy with his crop of current and developing riders such as Dan Martin, Niki Terpstra, Tour of California winner Julian Alaphilippe, Fernando Gaviria, Marcel Kittel, Bob Jungels, Zdenek Stybar and Tony Martin.
Lefevere declined to comment to Cyclingnews about Sagan, claiming he knows nothing.
Astana team manager Alexandre Vinokourov was at the Giro d’Italia until Monday morning and is only expected to return on Wednesday. Securing Sagan’s services would be a major coup for him and the Astana team and ensure the team continues to use Specialized bikes.
Vincenzo Nibali has been linked to the creation of a new team funded by Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain and so his departure, along with several teammates and staff, could free up some of the finds needed to sign Sagan.
Vinokourov was not available for comment and the Astana team refused to officially respond to questions that they are in talks with Sagan. However it seems that the Astana line-up could have Peter Sagan and Fabio Aru as team leaders for 2017.