Specialized keen to keep world champion in the fold with move to Kazakh team

Peter Sagan could be headed to Astana for the 2017 season on an annual salary of €4 million according to a report in Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The newspaper says that Specialized – bike sponsor of Astana, as well as Sagan’s current Tinkoff team, which folds at the end of this season – is behind the rumoured move.

Etixx-Quick Step, likewise supplied by the US bike firm, has also been reported as wanting to sign the man who will be the hottest property in the coming transfer season – and moreover, a rider Specialized seems determined to retain.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, a potential move to Etixx-Quickstep, while making sense from a sporting point of view given the Tour of Flanders champion’s prowess over the cobbles, has floundered since team manager Patrick Lefevere is unwilling to meet the 26-year-old’s wage demands.

Astana, which will see 2013 Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali depart at the end of this season, therefore appears to have moved into pole position for the Slovak’s signature, although no official announcement can be made until 1 August, when the transfer season opens.

While Fabio Aru will lead the team’s Grand Tour ambitions, the team would also have a new focus on the Classics, spearheaded by Sagan, who besides that Flanders victory - his first in a Monument - also won Gent-Wevelgem this year.

At the weekend, the Slovak won the points jersey at the Tour of California for the sixth time in seven editions – the sole blank being last season when that prize went to Mark Cavendish, but Sagan took the overall.

He has also topped the points classification at the past four editions of the Tour de France, a record bettered only by Erik Zabel who won six in a row at the turn of the Millennium.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.