With a budget of over €15 million per annum, the new Katusha team looks set to be a big presence in world cycling. Some big-name signatures have already been secured, and the team is now looking for a Tour de France contender. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes gets more details.
Building considerably on the nucleus of the existing Tinkoff Credit Systems squad, a number of important signings show that the Katusha team intends to become a major player from 2009 onwards. On September 1st the Russian outfit announced that a number of big guns would don its colours, including multiple Tour de France stage winner and maillot vert Robbie McEwen, Classic specialist Filippo Pozzato, Gert Steegmans and the Russians Vladimir Karpets and Alexandre Botcharov. Other signings include Kenny Dehaes, Stijn Vandenbergh, Antonio Colom and Joan Horrach.
Importantly, the team is also chasing a Tour de France contender and, according to its president Oleg Tinkov, they are going for the number one. "We are still talking to [Tour de France winner Carlos] Sastre; I hope we can persuade him to be a member of our team," Tinkov told Cyclingnews on Monday. "Budget? We have the budget to sign two riders like Sastre."
In a time when sponsors such as Crédit Agricole, Gerolsteiner, Barloworld and Saunier Duval are pulling out of the sport, the development of the high-budget Russian team shows that things are not all bad for the economics of cycling.
Details of the project were first revealed on the first rest day of this year's Tour de France. Under the plan three sponsors – namely Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii – will between them provide €30 million per annum for the new Russian Global Cycling Project foundation. Of this total, over half will go to the professional team, while the remainder will fund elements such as the new top-ranked Tour of Sochi, the activities of the Russian Cycling Federation plus a social and talent-developing project dedicated to working with schools and young athletes.
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