Tour Guide Flashback – Katusha Team Pages (2011)

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RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. During the production period, we will be looking back at certain features from over the years.

In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Katusha team from the 2011 Tour preview.

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Flashback: 2011 – Katusha Team Pages

Some of the big stars…conspicuous by absence

This is a roster with a lot to offer. With Joaquim Rodriguez, the world number-one of 2010, Katusha has a rider who could seriously challenge for the yellow jersey… if he opted to do so. But from the start of this season, the little Spaniard has said that the Tour de France isn’t part of his program. What a great shame! He was great at Mende when he beat Alberto Contador in his only appearance at the French race, and you’d think that an eighth place on GC would inspire him to great things.

Nope. He’s done the Giro this May and then plans to rest in July before going to the Vuelta in September. You’d think that, given the parcours of 2011, he’d at least try the Tour again.

Then there’s the return of Danilo Di Luca. After an ever-so-brief suspension for doping (because he confided details of how riders have been cheating for years – while bargaining his way out of a full two-year term for using EPO-CERA) he was back at the Giro this year. He’s still adored in Italy but cheers alone don’t make a rider win; after 15 stages he was ranked 60th in the race he “won” twice. The chances of him backing up and going to France are slim at best.

And so it leaves us with a selection who are racing for things other than the win (not that Di Luca is in that league anymore anyway). That’s not to say Katusha will be anonymous but it’s weird that, with a budget as big as theirs, the team would not look to win the most prestigious of all bike races. Instead, the likely scenario is that ‘Pippo’ Pozzato will rise to the occasion again and chase an early stage win or two… and why not the yellow jersey on day one? He’s the type of rider who could succeed on the Monte des Alouettes – but not on the Galibier.

There are others with true class, so don’t dismiss this mob. Katusha’s homegrown star Alexandr Kolobnev has legs that appear to be carved out of mahogany. And he knows how to use them. He’s a rider we see time and time again in the results – but, curiously, generally in the minor placings. Although he doesn’t win a lot, he has a lot of panache but it’s largely kept in reserve for the one-day races. At his first crack at the Tour he failed to make an impression, but perhaps he’s the one that the squad will work for in 2011. Or they’ll just chance it.

There are options, good ones in fact. But it’s hard to figure out this team. With so much at their disposal, but they seem prepared to waste it in favour of chasing prizes elsewhere.

Robbie McEwen has moved on but Katusha has a Russian for the sprints: Denis Galimzyanov was consistent early in 2011, top five 11 times (all sprints) and one win. He’s not in the class of Cavendish but it could be time to learn the pronunciation of his name. There are chances for success but Katusha should be aiming for bigger results at the biggest race.

By Rob Arnold

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Author: design@ride

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