According to a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali’s agent Johnny Carera said a deal was "in the last kilometre", with the presence of trusted Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli in the Astana team car considered a key factor in Nibali’s move from Trek-Segafredo.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Team BikeExchange were also interested in Nibali, with bike sponsor Bianchi keen to see him use their celeste-coloured bikes in the final years of his career. However, Nibali is apparently keen to return to Astana, where he enjoyed the peak of his career between 2013 and 2016, winning the 2014 Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2016.
"There’s no signature on the contract but everything indicates that direction, unless something suddenly goes wrong," Carera said.
Newly confirmed team manager Alexander Vinokourov is working to close the deal on Nibali’s return after the Kazakhstani team owners confirmed the squad will continue in 2022 after the exit of Canadian part-owner and sponsor Premier Tech.
"I’ll be the team manager and I’m optimistic that with a new and more serene atmosphere in the team we can build a good team. Nibali? We’re close to a deal," Vinokourov told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
According to the well-informed Italian sports newspaper, Nibali will be the only big-name arrival at Astana for 2022, with a number of riders expected to leave. Aleksandr Vlasov has already been announced as a Bora-Hansgrohe rider for 2022, while the future of Jakob Fuglsang in Astana’s sky blue colours remains unclear.
The Astana team had delayed building their roster for 2022 until the team ownership and management issues had been resolved. With the 2022 team controlled and funded by Kazakhstani sponsors, including the sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, Vinokourov is working on his roster.
Nibali is currently enjoying some time away from racing in his native Sicily after riding the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the Olympic Games road race. Trek-Segafredo have extended Giulio Ciccone’s contract but never appeared interested in keeping Nibali after two winless seasons soured their relationship.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali’s trusted soigneur Michele Palini will move with him to Astana but former coach Paolo Slongo and trusted veteran team doctor Emilio Magni will stay at Trek-Segafredo. Nibali could be joined by Valerio Conti from UAE Team Emirates, while Gianni Moscon has also been linked to Astana. He is not expected to stay at Ineos Grenadiers but is also courting a move to Deceuninck-QuickStep.
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