Following the confirmation that the current Lampre-Merida team will transfer into one with new Chinese backers in the future, the first two signings have been confirmed by the latter outfit.
The 2013 world road race champion Rui Costa and six-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Diego Ulissi have both inked two-year deals with the squad.
“I’m happy to continue along the professional path I have started in the team several years ago, adding a new enthusiasm which comes from the Chinese project. I’m sure the next two years will be full of satisfaction,” he said.
“We will fight to take the team as high as we can. Meanwhile the rest of this season will be full of commitments with upcoming races in Canada in the GP Montreal and Quebec.”
Ulissi turned professional in the team and has remained there ever since. In addition to his Giro stage wins, he also took Milan-Torino, the Giro dell’Emilia and the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali in 2013, plus the 2011 Tour of Slovenia.
Announcing the deal, the squad described him as ‘becoming the emblem of the team.’
Costa took the worlds three years ago. This was two seasons after he showed his one day pedigree with a win in the GP de Montréal. His palmares also include three consecutive Tours de Suisse between 2012 and 2014 and three stage wins in the Tour de France.
“Being part of this new project and having being chosen as a leader of the World Tour team is something special for me,” he said on Monday. “I had received proposals from other teams. However when [General Manager Giuseppe] Saronni described to me his ideas for the future and the project, I had no doubts. I immediately chose to sign a new contract for the next two years.
“I really appreciate that Saronni and the group of TJ Sport trust in me. This is a great motivation for me.”
Costa began his career with the Portuguese Benfica team, then spent five years with Caisse d’Epargne. Now 29, he has been with Lampre-Merida for the past three seasons.
He said that he is determined to repay the trust shown in him by Saronni and TJ Sport.
“I appreciate your confidence in me. I’m sure that, together, we’ll accomplish great collective results. You can count on my maximum commitment and dedication to this new family.”
Costa gave thanks to the current Lampre-Merida setup and, like Ulissi, said he was fully committed to chasing big results in the remaining races this year.
In an interview with CyclingTips, project co-ordinator Mauro Gianetti gave details about the new project. He said that TJ Sport would be the main sponsors and that others will be announced in the near future. Lampre looks set to be one of those.
Meanwhile others from the current team will become part of the new Bahrain-Merida setup in 2017.
Lampre and Merida have been part of the same squad for several years and the decision of the bike company to leave and work instead with the Bahrain project coincided with suggestions that Lampre would drop down to the Continental level.
As last week’s Chinese team announcement showed, and as underlined again on Monday by Costa and Ulissi’s decision to ink a two year deal, this is clearly not the case.