New Bahrain – Merida team unveiled
Cycling’s first WorldTour team from the Middle East has been unveiled ahead of an expected 2017 debut with Italian star Vincenzo Nibali.
Over the last week, the team announced its intention to enter the top ranks and Monday, confirmed that Lampre – Merida’s team manager Brent Copeland would run the team. Along with Copeland, Taiwan’s Merida will make the switch as a co-sponsor and bicycle supplier.
“Today, we become the Bahrain – Merida Pro Cycling Team,” said Brent Copeland. “The expertise that a distinguished brand such as Merida presents to the world of cycling will contribute significantly towards the Bahrain Cycling Team reaching its ambition to become a globally recognized team.”
Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa began the team earlier this year from the island in the Persian Gulf. If successful in his bid, he would take Bahrain to the top of the cycling world — a first for a team from the Middle East.
“We are thrilled to be able to announce the Bahrain Cycling Team today, as Bahrain holds a great love for this growing sport,” said a spokesperson last week. “As a country we already compete internationally in a range of sports, and we want to continue this though our commitment to international cycling.”
Insiders say that Vincenzo Nibali will be the team’s top rider. Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff), Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani – CSF), and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) are expected to join, as well. Nibali’s long-time coach Paolo Slongo will follow from team Astana.