Vincenzo Nibali joined his Bahrain-Merida teammates at a training camp in Catalunya on Tuesday to prepare for the 2019 season but confirmed that he is already thinking about 2020 and his personal future, which could be at Bahrain-Merida, Trek-Segafredo or even elsewhere.
Nibali admitted to Cyclingnews that Team Sky team manager Dave Brailsford had contacted his agent Johnny Carera after he said before last year's Il Lombardia that he'd be flattered to receive an offer from the British team. Team Sky's future is now in doubt after Sky decided to leave the sport but Trek-Segafredo have stepped up and confirmed they want to sign Nibali, with the Italian coffee brand offering Nibali a apparently tempting post-career ambassador role.
Nibali, his agent and lawyer held talks with both Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo teams last week and both will soon submit formal offers that include a two-year deal, a Grand Tour winners salary and the hiring of his personal staff and his brother Antonio.
"I'm still here…." Nibali told Cyclingnews with a smile while sitting under a Bahrain-Merida backdrop and in the team's red and blue colours but very much his own man.
"We'll see what happens in the future. They're important negotiations and important projects on offer.
"I think it's normal that when a contract ends, you listen to the offers. Listening is easy to do. It can also be motivating depending on the projects that are on offer."
Nibali has won all three Grand Tours during his career. He's also won Il Lombardia twice and snatched Milan-San Remo from the sprinters and Classis riders last March with yet another show of aggression and panache.
He still struggles to speak English fluently but knows he is one of the biggest names in the sport. Nibali understands that Bahrain-Merida want to keep him as team leader as McLaren takes up an ever more important role in the team's future development. But he also knows brands like Trek and especially Segafredo want him to promote their products in Italy and globally.
Nibali could perhaps be successful with either teams and so other factors could tip his decision on where he rides in what are likely to be the final two years of career.
The Bahrain-Merida team was created after Nibali's bike ride with Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa but his influence seems to have been restrained. There now appears to be a backstop to how much power and influence Nibali will have if he extends his contract with the team.
That seems to be a key sticking point for Nibali and could be enough to convince him to change teams and take up Trek-Segafredo's offer that includes a post-career ambassador role.
"The arrival of McLaren means that the team will be managed by a board and so (the management) part of the team will be completely different," Nibali explained, carefully choosing his words.
"McLaren is owned by the prince's brother and so it's 100% Bahrain but I have to speak to the team's delegates Brent Copeland and Milan Erzen, not with royal family."
First the Giro d'Italia, then the Tour de France
When Nibali and Bahrain-Merida revealed his plans for the 2019 season at their December training camp in Croatia, much was said about him going for the Giro-Tour double.
After a few weeks of reflection and consideration, Nibali is keen to pour cold water on the growing hype and expectation that he could perhaps follow in the footsteps of Marco Pantani and win both the Giro and Tour in the same season. His coach Paolo Slongo believes Nibali has the maturity and ability to do it but he is more cautious.
"It was said I'll do the Giro and Tour but it's important to clarify that I'll focus on the Giro d'Italia first, recover and see what I can do at the Tour," Nibali told Cyclingnews.
"I've never said I want to go for the double. For me the Giro-Tour double is a huge ask. Some riders have gone close in recent years but it's difficult to win both."
Nibali was keen to return to the Giro d'Italia after missing his home Grand Tour in 2018. Riding both was a compromise with the wishes of Bahrain-Merida.
"I asked to ride the Giro d'Italia this year, while the team asked that I ride the Tour de France. Lets say it's a good compromise," he said.
"I think I'm mature enough to try it. But I think it's going to be very hard, that's why I'm not building up my chances. It's going to be a long hard road and so that's why I'm taking it one step at a time."
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