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Scarponi close but still without 2014 deal at Lampre

MILAN, Italy (VN) — One week before the world championships, Michele Scarponi remains one of the highest ranked riders without a contract for 2014. The Italian, who on Sunday completed the Vuelta a España, has yet to renew with Lampre-Merida or indicate his future plans.

“We don’t even know yet,” Scarponi’s agent, Raimondo Scimone, said when VeloNews asked about Scarponi’s plans for next season. “The most likely thing is that he remains with Lampre, but anything’s possible.”

The Italian raced the last three years in Lampre’s classic blue and pink colors. He won the Giro del Trentino, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro d’Italia in that time, though the latter came after Alberto Contador lost his 2011 title as a result of a clenbuterol ban dating back to the 2010 Tour de France.

Scarponi’s own suspensions, related to Operación Puerto and his work with Michele Ferrari, could be causing problems. Lampre refused to race him for a period at the start of the season, even after his three-month ban by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) ended.

“Lampre knows about his past, that’s not even a topic of discussion,” Scimone said. “The other teams, when they hear about Scarponi, they want to know about the situation. But that’s not a stumbling block, once they know, they know. It’s not Lampre’s reason; they were always informed about the Padova investigation [involving Ferrari].”

“The sponsors are over it,” said Carlo Saronni, Lampre press officer and son of the general manager, Giuseppe Saronni. “It was cleared up during the year; there are no more problems. It does not have an influence on the negotiations.”

Scarponi has been negotiating since the end of the Giro and according to Scimone, he and the team simply need to decide on the contract details.

“We have intentions to make the deal happen, we haven’t yet due to the Vuelta and worlds, where he’ll be with the national team after he races Donoratico,” Saronni said. “It’s a question of time with all the other things going on.”

If negotiations fall through, Scarponi has a lot to offer to a new team. In each of the last four years, he has placed in the top five at the Giro d’Italia. He came up short after going to the Vuelta a España in August to aim for a top-10 result, but came away with good form, which enabled his world championship team selection. The 33-year-old hopes that form will carry him through the Giro di Lombardia.

Scarponi is ranked 16th in the WorldTour with just two events remaining on the calendar in Lombardia and the five-day Tour of Beijing. Aside from Vuelta winner Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), 12th, he is the highest placed rider without a 2014 contract. And behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), fourth, he is the top Italian.

“He’s a top rider. He has points,” said Scimone. “Lampre or another team will gain from those points.”

Which other teams are out there? Scarponihas been linked with Italy’s other top division team, Cannondale, and Formula One pilot Fernando Alonso’s team, currently Euskaltel-Euskadi. However, it seems he is comfortable in blue and pink.

“He’s not super young — for sure he’s not going to racing and winning the Vuelta at 41 like Horner,” said Scimone. “To go and look for a new team, it’s not something he really wants to do.”