FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is meeting with Trek-Segafredo Monday about a possible deal for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the top Italian cyclist — winner of the 2018 Milano-Sanremo, Il Lombardia twice, and all three grand tours, among other races — could switch from Bahrain-Merida at the end of the 2019 season. One of the options would be the U.S. team backed by Italian coffee giant Segafredo.
“It would obviously be nice to have him close his career with us,” Bahrain-Merida general manager Brent Copeland told Velonews.
“He’s been with the team since it started, he was one of the most important points of the team starting up when he met with Prince Nasser, but that’s his decision. We can only offer the best we can and he has to decide.”
Trek-Segafredo begins this 2019 season with Richie Porte as its new star. The Australian transferred from BMC Racing over the winter and signed a two-year deal through 2020. He has won several small stage races but has yet to succeed in a grand tour.
Nibali, 34, is looking to cement the final years of his professional career. Any deal would see him through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2021.
Transferring would mean leaving behind the team he helped begin after a chance bicycle ride with Bahrain’s prince on the oil-rich island in the Persian Gulf. Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa helped back the team sponsored by several Bahraini companies, joined in 2019 by British motorsport giant McLaren.
However, Nibali reportedly started looking elsewhere when the team only offered him a one-year contract renewal instead of two years.
“It’s not that he’s not unhappy with the 2020 offer we made,” Copeland added.
Nibali’s original request was to race until Tokyo 2020. Then he came back after a couple of months saying he’d like to race though another year, 2021.
“That was at the time we were negotiating with McLaren, so it wasn’t easy to negotiate with him until we closed up the McLaren deal,” Copeland said. “That’s why it’s starting again now. Obviously with McLaren being 50 percent partners in the deal now, they have to be involved in all negotiations.”
Copeland will meet with Nibali and his agent Monday to work on a deal to keep “The Shark” in the team’s waters. However, Nibali is also reportedly scheduled to meet with Trek-Segafredo. If he switches teams, he would have to organize a deal for him, some helpers, and staff, including his doctor and masseur. It is no small issue, since Nibali alone earns around 3.5 million euros per year.
Already last year, Nibali reportedly met with Segafredo boss Massimo Zanetti at his Treviso, Italy headquarters. It is assumed that Nibali would have also had private talks with Italian Luca Guercilena, the general manager of Trek-Segafredo.
The team already wanted him before the Bahrain deal came about for 2017.
Another possibility, but seemingly less likely, is that Nibali signs with UAE Team Emirates. The team currently supports grand tour leaders Dan Martin and Nibali’s former teammate Fabio Aru.
“The possibility is there,” Nibali said last month of changing teams for 2020. “My agent Johnny Carera is looking at different offers. But I’ll say again, I hope to stay where I am.
“I’d like to go another two years beyond 2019. I don’t want to be categorical, maybe I’ll continue until I’m 40 years old.”