Italian cycling team Lampre said they have signed a preliminary agreement with Chinese rider Xu Gang.

Lampre, which has enjoyed a strong presence in Japan where former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego had many fans, believes the signing of Xu will help expand the brand's presence in Asia.

A team statement said: "Signing Xu Gan, Lampre-Merida reaffirms its long view in scanning new cycling frontiers."

Xu, who has been linked to Lampre for several years while racing for Continental-level (second tier) outfit Champion System, is expected to officially sign for the team after undergoing a medical check-up.

The statement added: "Xu Gang, born in 1984, has improved his cycling skills during his experience as a trainee in the Italian team.

"He obtained four national road race titles and in 2013, his highlight was the 'most combative rider' award he received at the end of the first stage of the Giro del Trentino."

Currently, only two other Chinese riders, Argos-Shimano pair Ji Cheng and Xing Yan Dong, are listed on the roster of another WorldTour team.

Team Saxo-Tinkoff has one Japanese rider Takashi Miyazawa, as does Europcar, the well-known French outfit which operates from Continental level and features Yukiya Arashiro.