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Report: Sagan linked to Astana for 2017

An Italian newspaper report claims Peter Sagan and four of his current Tinkoff teammates will ride in an Astana kit next year.

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ANDALO, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan will join Astana in 2017 with a contract worth 4 million euros ($4.47 million), according to a Tuesday report in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The reigning world champion, classics star, and the winner of this year’s Tour of Flanders is seeking a new team because the future of his current Tinkoff squad is murky after owner Oleg Tinkov pulled his sponsorship money. Sagan — along with his brother Juraj Sagan, Rafal Majka, Erik Baška, and Michael Gogl — have contracts through 2017 that will be annulled in the absence of a new backer.

Tuesday’s report claims Sagan will ride for Astana next season, along with his brother, Michael Kolar, Oscar Gatto, and probably Baška.

The newspaper adds that a deal has been struck but is not yet official.

Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli could not comment on the report, only saying that general manager Alexander Vinokourov knew about the team’s signings. Sagan’s agent Giovanni Lombardi was unavailable for comment.

The report, however, said that Specialized is paving the way for the deal to keep the 26-year-old Slovak star on its bicycles in 2017. The American manufacturer also supplies Etixx – Quick-Step.

Sagan would lead Astana in the classics and leave Fabio Aru to race for the grand tours. Astana’s star Vincenzo Nibali is linked with a new team from Middle East country Bahrain.

If the deal proves true, it means the end of the Tinkoff structure which took root in 1999 as a Danish team with Bjarne Riis at the helm. Riis sold the team to Tinkov in December 2013, but the Russian businessman could not stomach top-level cycling, saying he had achieved the most he could from the team’s marketing potential and that the economic situation in Russia “is not great.”

Sagan won two stages in the Amgen Tour of California last week. He left Liquigas/Cannondale to join Tinkoff in 2015 on a three-year deal worth 4 million euros annually. Without results in early 2015, Tinkov complained he was paying Sagan too much. Sagan won the worlds at the end of the season in Richmond, and this year he won Flanders while wearing the rainbow jersey — his first monument win.

Vinokourov led Astana in the one-day races before retiring. He won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and retired after winning the road race at the 2012 Olympics in London.

With the Sagan deal done, Etixx could instead turn to John Degenkolb to lead its classics team. The German who won Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix last year currently rides for Giant – Alpecin and needs a contract renewal or a new team for 2017.