Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez will not join Bahrain-Merida, says the team. It is all rumours, but the team did confirm their interest in Ion Izaguirre, who has a massive 270 WorldTour points and is set to leave his current team Movistar one year early.
Rodriguez's agent said that his rider may decide not to retire after 16 successful years as a professional and that he may join one of a few teams for 2017, including new Middle East team Bahrain-Merida.
"The way things are going maybe we'll sign up Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. There's your new rumour!" General Manager Brent Copeland told Cycling Weekly with a laugh.
"I heard that we are taking Igor Anton, Rodriguez, Filippo Ganna, so many names! I don't know where it all comes from. There is no truth to any of the rumours besides Izaguirre. We have some bureaucratic documents to go through because he has a contract for next year, so we are still discussing it. Its not 100 per cent but it's looking good."
Rodriguez has 211 WorldTour points. Izaguirre has a massive 270 points and sits 10th in the WorldTour ranking. He is currently in contract with Movistar for 2017, but his agent also told Cycling Weekly that they are negotiating their way out of it.
Teams applying for a WorldTour licence must submit 15 of their riders’ contracts to the UCI's licence commission by 20 October. The commission will take into consideration the five top riders when weighing up the team's points and the sporting criterion for a licence.
Based on the current standings, teams Dimension Data, Giant-Alpecin, Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Merida may be fighting for three available WorldTour spots. If the UCI keeps the WorldTour teams at 18, instead of going to 17, the battle may come to nothing.
"Our five? It depends on Izaguirre. But it would be Izaguirre, Vincenzo Nibali, Heinrich Haussler, Enrico Gasparotto and Sonny Colbrelli. Colbrelli doesn't have many points but he has some from his third place at the Amstel Gold Race," Copeland added.
"Right now, to buy a rider with more points than 70 would cost a fortune because the way I understand it most of those riders are wrapped up in contracts. Maybe I'm missing someone, but I think everyone that has those points are signed up."
Copeland wants to continue to work with Louis Meintjes, also from South Africa. Meintjes rode the last year in Lampre-Merida and this July, placed eighth overall in the Tour de France behind Froome.
Copeland left the team in August to help start the new Bahraini team. He wants Meintjes to folow, but with the Lampre’s new Chinese sponsor TJ Sport, Meintjes may have to stay put.
"We are obviously interested in Louis Meintjes, but I know that he is still dealing with Lampre. I know he would like to stay in the team that I am managing, and I would love him to be in our team," said Copeland. "But even he doesn't have a huge amount of points, it's around 85. It's more because we like him as a rider."
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