Vincenzo Nibali will decide which team he will ride for in 2017 sometime in the next six months, with Trek Factory Racing in pole position to sign the former Tour de France winner according to a report in Gazzetta dello Sport.
Nibali’s contract with the Astana team ends in 2016 and his next contract is likely to be his last as a true Grand Tour contender. Nibali’s often troubled relationship with team manager Alexandre Vinokourov and rivalry with fellow Italian Fabio Aru – who has a contract with Astana until the end of 2017 - mean that the Sicilian is open to offers from other WorldTour teams. Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that Astana has a 30% chance of convincing Nibali to stay with BMC another alternative.
Trek Factory Racing was ready to sign Nibali if Astana lost its WorldTour licence in the spring, and the US-registered team is preparing for the long-term future after Fabian Cancellara confirmed he will retire in 2016. The Trek bicycle company directly owns the team and intends to stay in the sport beyond 2017 when the UCI will offer three-year WorldTour licences as part of wider reforms of the sport.
Team manager Luca Guercilena confirmed to Cyclingnews that Trek Factory Racing would be interested in signing Nibali for 2017. The team has signed Ryder Hesjedal and Pete Stetina for 2016, with Bauke Mollema again the team leader for Grand Tours. The Dutchman finished seventh in the Tour de France.
"It’s still only 2015 but obviously we’d always be interested in a rider of the calibre of Vincenzo," Guercilena told Cyclingnews.
"2016 marks the end of the first three-year cycle for the Trek Factory Racing team and so it’ll be important to plan carefully for the future. It’s clear the team will have new goals in future."
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali is looking for a team that can support him in Grand Tours during the final years of his career but is not chasing a huge salary. He is expected to want to bring his personal soigneur Michele Palini and perhaps fellow Italian rider Valerio Agnoli with him to any new team. There have been several reports that Italian coffee brand Segafredo is keen to sponsor professional cycling. It has been linked to Bjarne Riis’ attempt to return to the sport but could also team up with Nibali and so facilitate any contract negotiations.
Guercilena refused to comment about Segafredo’s role in any deal to secure Nibali’s arrival for 2017.
Nibali will celebrate his 31st birthday with family and friends at home in Messina, Sicily on Saturday. He will then return to Lugano before heading to Montecatini Terme in Tuscany on November 26 for the first Astana get together of the winter.