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Two spots left on Bahrain Merida with Brajkovic close to signing

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Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare)

Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Janez Brajkovic (UnitedHealthcare) stays tucked in on the climb

Janez Brajkovic (UnitedHealthcare) stays tucked in on the climb
(Image credit: Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) wait for the start of stage 2 at the 2016 Tour of Oman

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) wait for the start of stage 2 at the 2016 Tour of Oman
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Still wearing their 2017 team kits, riders play a bit of soccer at the Bahrain Merida camp

Still wearing their 2017 team kits, riders play a bit of soccer at the Bahrain Merida camp
(Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)
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General Manager Brent Copeland welcomes athletes and staff at the Bahrain Merida camp

General Manager Brent Copeland welcomes athletes and staff at the Bahrain Merida camp
(Image credit: Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team)

The Bahrain Merida team is still on the lookout for two riders ahead of the 2017 season. Former Criterium du Dauphine winner Janez Brajkovic is set for one of the two spots – although the team management have told Cyclingnews that no contracts have been officially signed - while they also weigh up the choice between signing another climber to support Vincenzo Nibali or bring in a rider to complement their Classics contingent.

Brajkovic was linked to the team several weeks ago by the Italian media and the 32-year-old is currently at home in Dubai as he trains for 2017 and finalises his visas. He has spent the last two years at UnitedHealthcare but is looking to return to the WorldTour.

"We still have open negotiations with him but nothing is yet official," Bahrain Merida's Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.

"He's a rider we've looked at a lot and we think he can support Nibali in the mountains. We still have two spaces open on the team and he's in contention for one of them, certainly. I think that it's likely he'll take it."

Brajkovic came through the ranks under Johan Bruyneel at Discovery and later rode as part of Astana and RadioShack, alongside Lance Armstrong. He spent another three years at Astana between 2012 and 2014, finishing ninth in the 2012 Tour de France.

"He came to our first training camp and spoke with the team and the management. He gave us a good impression. He's a classy rider who has done well in certain races but at the same time he can be a bit fragile. That's really our only concern but we'll make a decision soon."

Assuming Bahrain Merida sign Brajkovic the team will have one more spot to fill. They attempted to lure Louis Meintjes from Lampre but he has one-year left on his current contract, while a number of other options remain open for the team.

"We have the Classics, and we've not got a great team there. We'd like to give Heinrich Haussler some support there but at the same time our main rider is Nibali and we'd like to give him support in the Grand Tours. We're keeping things open and we're talking to about five riders. It's not an easy decision."

Sergio Paulinho, Chris Horner and Amets Txurruka have all been linked to the new team.

"Sergio Paulinho was suggested to us at the Tour but negotiations never went ahead with him. Chis Horner is not one of them. He got a hold of me a couple of months ago to ask if there was a spot, but it's not going to happen. Txurruka was on our radar but I think he's already signed for Caja Rural."