Cycling’s first big budget Middle Eastern team has been officially announced with Merida bikes as the title sponsor and equipment supplier.
Merida is the second biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world and the companies Senior Vice President William Jeng explained “We are delighted about this new chapter in our road racing history. As a global manufacturer of bicycles we are looking forward to developing these new and exciting markets and are eager to support the ambitions of Bahrain to bring the healthy sport of cycling to its people.”
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“We are thrilled to be able to announce the Bahrain Cycling Team, 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.”
South African Brent Copeland, currently manager of Lampre-Merida, has moved to become general manager of the new team, saying that “Today we become the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team. 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.”
Copeland has previous experience managing team MTN-Qhubeka from its inception in 2012. He subsequently moved to Lampre-Merida and could well bring 24-year-old South African Louis Meintjes with him to the new team.
It is widely believed that the star signing of the new Bahrain Merida team will be Vincenzo Nibali, with an official announced expected on 3 August. Sources also say that Slovenian Gorazd Stangelj, currently with Astana, and Croatian Vladimir Miholjevic, who manages the Tour of Croatia, will direct the team.
It is unclear whether this announcement will have any effect on the future of the existing Lampre-Merida team.