First Chinese WorldTour team the aim as company buys Lampre-Merida’s licence owner
The future of the Lampre-Merida team has been under question ever since Merida confirmed that it would partner with the new Bahrain Pro Cycling project in 2017.
The split ends a collaboration between the bike company and Lampre, an Italian sheet steel manufacturer, which began in 2013.
During the Tour de France CyclingTips heard suggestions that a Lampre-backed squad would drop down to Continental level; other reports stated that it would be a Pro Continental team.
However it appears that things could now be much bigger than that. A press conference due to be held on Friday at 10.30 am in Beijing will announce the acquisition of the CGS Cycling Team by the company TJ Sport Consultation.
CGS Cycling is the holding agent of the current Lampre-Merida WorldTour licence.
Firm details are scarce at this point in time but an invitation issued in recent days bills the press conference as announcing ‘the first UCI WorldTeam of China.’
The brands of both Lampre and current kit supplier Champion System feature on the invite, suggesting that both companies will be involved in the project.
— Shannon Bufton (@bikebeijing) August 24, 2016
There are no indications at this point in time as to which riders would be signed.
Providing the UCI grants the retention of the WorldTour licence owned by CGS Cycling Team, pressure will be on for the 17th and final WorldTour slot.
There are currently 18 WorldTour squads, but the UCI is reducing this number by one for 2017 as part of its WorldTour reforms.
This will create a potential headache: while IAM Cycling and Tinkoff are both leaving the sport, potentially freeing up their licences, both the Bahrain project and the current Bora-Argon 18 squad want WorldTour status in 2017.
That would bring the number back up to 18, meaning that one squad aiming for the top rank looks set to lose out.
While there are no big name riders as yet associated with the Chinese project, this could change when the announcement is made on Friday.
High ranking riders will be needed if the UCI is to grant a top level licence, particularly as Bora-Argon 18 [to be known as Bora-hansgrohe in 2017] has signed world champion Peter Sagan and the Bahrain project will bring 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali across from Astana.