Italian Franco Pellizotti will join Vincenzo Nibali for Bahrain-Merida's inaugural season in the WorldTour
Pellizotti brings with him a wealth of experience, having made his professional debut in 2001. He can count two Giro d’Italia stage victories and a career-best fourth place overall in the Italian Grand Tour in 2008.
Nibali and Pellizotti have been team-mates before, when both were signed to the Italian Liquigas outfit.
It’s the first time that Pellizotti will have ridden for a top-level WorldTour team for five years, having been signed to the Italian Professional Continental squad Androni Giocattoli since 2012.
“I am really happy for more than one reason,” said Pellizotti in a team statement. “I will race another season and above all with Bahrain-Merida pro cycling team I return to the WorldTour, which means riding with top cyclists in the world, like Nibali.
“What makes me even more excited is the idea to be part of a new team, to share the enthusiasm of a new beginning with my co-riders and to feel everyone’s desire to achieve something good together.”
Pellizotti continued: “Regarding Nibali – we spent five years together in Liquigas and I saw him growing up. It’s amazing how now I can support him toward his goals, among which is Giro d’Italia, where he will be aiming for his third victory. I will be one of his men for the climbs and my aim is to help him as much as possible.”
Pellizotti had been awarded the king of the mountains title in the 2009 Tour de France, but this result was anulled after the UCI found via its anti-doping biological passport system that he had suspicious blood values.
A protracted legal process ensued which initially saw Pellizotti cleared, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport later upheld an appeal by the UCI and Pellizotti was suspended for two years, ending in May 2012.
Bahrain-Merida’s WorldTour licence was confirmed by the UCI in November.
In addition to Nibali and Pellizotti, the squad has made a number of other high-profile signings including Spaniards Joaquim Rodriguez and Ion Izagirre, Australian Heinrich Haussler, Belarusian Kanstantsin Siutsou and Italian Giovanni Visconti.
The team will make its WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under, over January 17-22.