Demol's desire to build Katusha's future around Politt

'Why would Zakarin leave?' ask team director

With just three wins this season and their lead sprinter nullifying his contract in order to take a sabbatical from professional cycling, it's fair to say that 2019 has been a hugely disappointing season for Katusha-Alpecin.

With a number of riders unable to reach their full potential this season, it looks as though the squad will undergo a significant overhaul, and sports director Dirk Demol is planning on strengthening the team's Classics core around Nils Politt. The 25-year-old has been a rare beacon of hope for the team with second place in Paris-Roubaix capping an excellent spring. Although the German hasn't won a race in 2019, he has picked up top 10s consistently this year, and with the majority of Katusha riders out of contract, Demol is looking to build around Politt.

"We have a lot of space to change riders and not so many have contracts for next year. We have several riders who we want to carry on but what's clear is that we have Nils and with the steps that he made he deserves to have a classics team around him. That's my first priority. I already have some names in my head to hope to bring over," Demol recently told Cyclingnews.

"We have some good riders but having two or three more that he can really use is really important."

Another area that Demol and his boss Jose Azevedo may wish to concentrate on in the market is the hunt for a bunch sprinter. With Marcel Kittel no longer on the squad, the management is left with sizeable funds and the building blocks of a lead-out that Kittel inherited from Alexander Kristoff two years ago.

"It's all open and for sure we can have a good lead-out train but we'll wait and see," Demol said without giving anything away.

"For me and for Jose who I have spoken to the priority is to have some new riders for the Classics."

The team's only Grand Tour leader Ilnur Zakarin flattered to deceive at the Giro d'Italia in May. The Russian won a stage to climb to third overall but that slipped down the standings before eventually finishing 10th on GC. Also out of contract, he has been heavily linked to CCC but Demol believes that the former Vuelta a España third-place finisher will extend his contract at his current team.

"There are a lot of rumours at this point. We'll see. He did a good Giro with a stage and tenth overall, which was OK. Why should he change? When he's here he's always the leader in the Grand Tours. He's a consistent rider in Grand Tours."

Both Politt and Zakarin will line up for Katusha at the Tour de France in July.

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