The long-awaited project will likely have Vincenzo Nibali as it's marquee rider for its debut in the 2017 season

The new and long-awaited Bahrain cycling project was officially confirmed by Sheikh Nasser on Sunday, with the prince saying the Middle East’s first potential WorldTour team “will soon make its debut on the international scene.”

Sheikh Nasser was confirmed the team’s existence to the Bahrain News Agency, but also took to Instagram to show off the team’s logo on some branded clothing, saying “Bahrain Cycling Team will inspire, race hard, and look elegant.”

The existence of the team has been rumoured for some time, with Italian Grand Tour star Vincenzo Nibali likely to leave Astana for the team next year.

Cycling Weekly exclusively revealed last week that the 2016 Giro d’Italia winner will take along Astana teammates Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli, masseur Michele Pallini, trainer Paolo Slongo and team manager Giuseppe Martinelli to the Bahrain squad.

Sheikh Nasser said on the new team: “The Kingdom of Bahrain has become the home of the Triathlon and the motorsport in the Middle East. The formation of the team will definitely further enable the Kingdom to become the home of cycling sport in the region…”

“The Kingdom of Bahrain Cycling Team will soon make its debut on the international scene, and we hope to begin achieving positive results as this will be a morale-boosting for the team and will help the team to gain more experience for the coming competitions.”

The Sheikh, full name Nasser Bin Hamad Alkhalifa, has long been a fan of cycling and spends a lot of time racing triathlons and horse racing.

His past exploits have come in to question however, particularly after being specifically named by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights among five members of the Alkhalifa family over accusations of torture of pro-democracy protesters during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. He and his family deny the accusations.

It is still not known at which level the team will enter at pro cycling, but it is likely they will ask the UCI for a WorldTour licence with IAM and Tinkoff set to fold at the end of the 2016 season. The Bahrain team reportedly is set to have a budget of around around £11.5 to £13.7 million (€15 to €18m).

  • Timpacker

    Like I said.. Another corrupt individual in it for the money.. If you’ve got the money you can do (almost ) anything..

  • Dave

    Hang on a minute, the UCI hasn’t had anything to do with him as yet. All we’ve got is a press release saying he wants (n.b. want ≠ have) to have a cycling team.

    If you really care about it, now is the time to do something about it. A few methods could be:
    – Lobby your national body to push for a change in the UCI team licence regulations to allow discretionary refusal where granting a licence may bring the sport into disrepute.
    – Contact sponsors of races to seek their commitment to withdraw sponsorship if this team is issued an invitation to the races they sponsor.
    – Promote an alternative candidate to stand against Brian Cookson in next year’s election for the UCI Presidency.

  • two20

    After the shambles of Ferretti’s non existent team, and Alonso’s feeble attempt I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Timpacker

    Bilal Jeffrey .. No convictions dosent mean not guilty .. Wouldn’t surprise me the amount of money this man has he paid a few people off

  • of course, good point, how quickly we forget.

  • Bilal Jeffrey

    UCI has a long history of being corrupt itself. But on the other hand accusations are just that and nothing more, there are no convictions so…

  • Bilal Jeffrey

    That is a surprise to you?

  • Timpacker

    Oh well another corrupt individual involved with Cycling.. After the accusations made against him and his family involving accusations of torture during 2011 it’s disgusting the uci want anything to do with this man… money talks I think

  • Steve Tucker

    Did you not read the article?

  • llos25

    Who?

  • LaszloZoltan

    shameful how the uci is willing to let itself be tainted by such a person with such a disgusting reputation.

  • David Bassett

    Vincenzo Nibali will take along Astana teammates Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli, masseur Michele Pallini, trainer Paolo Slongo and team manager Giuseppe Martinelli to the Bahrain squad.
    Will that leave enough money to buy a team bus. I wonder why they did not just go in with IAM.

  • Ryan Bolin

    With the accusations made against him it will be interesting to hear about what happens if a rider loses a leaders jersey 😉