Vinokourov almost certain Nibali will ride for Astana in 2017

Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov has said that he is almost certain that he will be able to retain the services of Vincenzo Nibali for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Nibali’s contract is up for renewal at the end of the 2016 season and there is plenty of interest in the former Tour de France champion. The Italian has been with the Astana team since 2013 but his relationship with Vinokourov has been somewhat of a rollercoaster.

“Why should he change,” Vinokourov told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I contacted his agent today and Vincenzo feels good with us because at his disposal he has all the conditions to give him the best. I would say that, 99 per cent, in 2017 and 2018 he will race with us.”

Where exactly Nibali will end up in 2017 has been a big topic of discussion in Italy. Trek Factory Racing has been pipped as his most likely destination, with team manager Luca Guercilena confirming to Cyclingnews that they would be interested.

Nibali is one of only two currently active riders to have won all three Grand Tours, alongside Alberto Contador. He failed to win one in 2015, however, as he lost time early in the Tour de France and was later disqualified from the Vuelta a Espana for holding onto a team car following a mechanical problem. His younger teammate Fabio Aru would go on to win the Vuelta, his first Grand Tour success.

There has been conflicting messages from Astana as to what Nibali’s 2016 programme will look like. Vinokourov has insisted that the Italian would be focusing on his home Grand Tour the Giro d’Italia before turning his attentions to the Olympic Games. Nibali has refuted this, saying that he also liked the look of the Tour de France route. Aru is expected to make his debut at the Tour in 2016.

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