Who are the sponsor? Katusha is an conglomerate of Russian companies who sponsor the ‘national’ cycling team, mainly sponsored by Itera and Gazprom. It also supposedly means a type of rocket launcher.
2012 Ranking: 2nd
Past Stars: Oscar Freire, Robbie McEwen, Gert Steegmans, Fillipo Pozzato, Ben Swift,
Selected Team Palmares: 1st, 2007 Vuelta a Espana, 2009 Giro d’Italia, Stage, 2006 Tour de France, Stages, Giro d’Italia 2009×2, Stages, Vuelta a Espana 2004, 2005×2, 2007, 2012 (all Denis Menchov) 2012 Giro di Lombardia, 2012 Fleche Wallone, UCI World Tour 2010 + 2012, Stage, 2010 Tour de France, Stages, Giro d’Italia 2012×2, Stages, Vuelta a Espana 2003, 2010, 2011×2, 2012×3 (all Joaquim Rodriguez)
Brief Team History: Formed out of the ashes of Tinkoff, not that they like to admit it as there is still some dispute between Tinkoff and the team over him being forced out, they became the ‘Global Russian Cycling Project’ and signed, er, lots of none Russians, such as Pozzato and McEwen, with Vladimir Karpets as their GC man. This didn’t go so well, and they kept being fairly sub par and turning out a few positive tests whilst simultaneously having a very strong anti-doping charter that effectively got rid of Gert Steegmans, who saw it as overly draconian. Eventually, they got hold of Denis Menchov, the pride of Russian cycling, but he was a bit past his prime, so they had to rely on Alexandre ‘Near Miss’ Kolobnev to carry the flag for Russia.
Last year: A tale of one man: Joaquim Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the ‘people’s champion’ for two races, the Giro and the Vuelta, both of which he came agonizingly close to winning after leading them for a combined 23 days altogehter. He actually came 3rd in the Vuelta in the end, but even if we remove the two grand tours from his year, and the 5 stages he won in them from the record, he still had a great year – he won a monument in the Tour of Lombardy and had won Fleche Wallone earlier in the year. Elsewhere, Katusha didn’t get up too much, Menchov bombed at the Tour and then won a Vuelta stage as Rodriguez tried desperately to win the race on the penultimate day, but otherwise, only the underrated Daniel Moreno and Oscar Freire seemed to turn up. Denis Galimzyanov turned up for a drugs test, but probably wishes he hadn;t now he has a two year ban for EPO.
Transfer dealings: Katusha have shipped in 4 young Russians as replacements for outgoing Oscar Freire, but otherwise have done nothing.
Who are the star riders? He might not be for very long, thanks to the problems with the ProTeam license (they are a Pro Continental team at the moment), but Joaquim Rodriguez is their man for all seasons. They also have double Grand Tour winner Denis Menchov, but he is long past his best, and also Daniel Moreno, who would probably benefit from leading a team a he’s pretty darn good. Mikheil Ignatiev can be guaranteed to break away, and Alexandre Kolobnev pops up to take silver and bronze medals at the worlds every so often. Young Marco Haller might be worth watching as a sprinter, as is Eduardo Vorganov, who has a powerful kick.
Fashion Police: Katusha’s kit has always mirrored their national pride, with the initial blue offerings showing the Moscow skyline, then progressing to a more Russian red in the last couple of years. This year, they’ve added the flag under the collar and as a ‘belt’ feature so everyone can be sure they are indeed Russian.
What are their targets? Making the assumption that Rodriguez stays, he’s targeting the Tour de France, which suits him quite well this year bar the one long time trial, making it more like the 2012 Giro in some respects, which he only lost by 16 seconds. He’s also marked down the Vuelta, which, after being so close last year, he’ll have bones to pick with, and given the course is very similar, it’s a good target. Elsewhere, its hard to know what they’ll do – support Menchov to a top ten somewhere, whilst Moreno looks to win Romandie or similar? We just don’t know.
What are they likely to achieve? If Rodriguez goes, not alot, but if he stays, he could complete his Grand Tour podium set at the Tour de France, then go win the Vuelta depending on who turns up. Rodriguez is the star of the team, and without him, they season will seem very long indeed.
Components: There are no Russian racing bikes, so Canyon get the nod, as do Shimano and Santini for the kit.
The Big Question(s): Can they keep hold of Rodriguez?