Italian sprinter could quit Team Sky in unusual mid-season move as he searches for a Grand Tour role in 2017

Elia Viviani could leave Team Sky as early as August to race the Vuelta a España, reports Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

The Italian, overlooked for the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, wants to race a Grand Tour in 2017. The article says that Viviani has agreed to a two-year deal with Giuseppe Saronni’s UAE Emirates team.

Saronni, who also showed interest in Geraint Thomas before he extended his Sky contract, would take Viviani to the Vuelta to lead his sprint team.

UAE already includes Sacha Modolo and, though not a pure sprinter, Ben Swift.

Mid-season moves are rare, but not impossible in cycling. Rohan Dennis switched teams from Garmin to BMC Racing in 2014, and Carlos Verona left Etixx-Quick Step for Orica last year.


Watch: My toughest day, by Elia Viviani


Those close to the deal consider it likely the Viviani will stay through 2017, but will definitely break his current contract, which runs through 2018.

The 28-year-old from Verona placed ninth in Milan-San Remo and has sprinted to victory in stages in the Tour de Romandie and the Route du Sud this year. In the 2015 Giro d’Italia, he won a stage in Genoa.

The beginning of the end of his relationship with the team may have come when he was omitted from the 2017 Giro. He said he was “very upset” and needed to talk seriously with management after racing his home Grand Tour in previous years.

Sky this year banked everything on the Giro classification with two leaders and helpers to support them. Unfortunately, both Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa crashed on stage nine due to a parked police motorbike. Thomas retired from the race a few days later and Landa eventually won the King of the Mountain classification.

During the race, Viviani reportedly met with Sky boss David Brailsford about the situation. Viviani instead went to the Tour of California and to the Limburg Hammer Series.

The situation at Team Sky may not change soon for Viviani. Priorities are  centred on Chris Froome for the Tour de France, where he already counts three titles, and for the Vuelta a España.

The only way it could change, as the article says, is if Viviani hits the eject button.

The Italian returns to racing today in the Tour of Austria, racing in national team colours.