Vincenzo Nibali’s move to Trek-Segafredo – first revealed by Cyclingnews – has been confirmed by the owner of the team’s co-title sponsor, Segafredo. In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Massimo Zanetti explained he’d wanted to sign the Italian for a number of years and "finally did it".
Segafredo joined forces with the American-registered Trek team at the start of the 2016 season but missed out when Nibali left Astana and joined Bahrain-Merida for 2017. Contract talks between Nibali and Bahrain-Merida management stalled this year over the length of a possible new contract, and Trek-Segafredo swooped in.
Under UCI regulations, new signings cannot be made until August 1, but in reality deals are struck well in advance, and Zanetti was unequivocal when speaking to La Gazzetta.
"I signed Vincenzo Nibali," he said. "I'd wanted to very badly, and I finally did it."
Nibali is expected to bring a number of figures with him, including brother and teammate Antonio Nibali, his long-time coach Paolo Slongo, masseur Michele Pallini, and doctor Emilio Magni. The team already has Richie Porte as a Grand Tour leader, a new signing this year, but Zanetti was open in saying Nibali would become the figurehead of the squad.
"I noticed that all the riders, even if it seems a paradox, need a patron, the 'dad'," he said. "Now the teams are more international, they have many managers, but what we need is a family relationship. Here Nibali will find all this and we will build a high-level team around him.”
The Italian connection was an important one for Segafredo, an Italian coffee company. Nibali is the most high-profile active Italian rider – a winner of all three Grand Tours along with Il Lombardia and Milan-San Remo.
"With Vincenzo we become ‘Italians’, even if Trek is American, international, and wants athletes of many nationalities. For me, cycling without the historical core of nations like Italy, France, and Belgium does not exist. It will certainly give us a lot of notoriety, visibility. I hope he wins some good races and I trust that will happen.”
As for what’s left of Nibali’s career, which proved a stumbling block for Bahrain-Merida as they were only prepared to offer a one-year extension on his current terms, Zanetti feels there's plenty more to come from the 34-year-old.
"He told me immediately, ‘I'm 34, I'm still young’," Zanetti said. "He’s not past it. He’s still fresh, and motivated.
"I’m confident that he has at least two more years ahead at a high level. He is tenacious, serious, and has a fierce will. He proved it by returning to the top after injury at the Tour [in 2018]. In champions, the difference is made in the head, and Vincenzo has it - in addition to the passion. That’s why he continues - not for anything else, because cyclists struggle a lot more than footballers and other higher-paid athletes."