Russian ProTour team Katusha is aiming for a stage victory at this year's Giro d'Italia as the team prepares for its debut at Italy's Grand Tour. Katusha Directeur Sportif Serge Parsani expects the team's early season success to continue through the three-week stage race.
"If you think there are 22 teams and 21 stages, it is hard to get at least one stage," Parsani told Cyclingnews. "But we hope to do what we have been doing from February up until now; we hope to come away with a stage win."
The Katusha squad, which is contesting its first Grand Tour this month, is based on the former Tinkoff Credit Systems team of Oleg Tinkov. Tinkoff won two stages in the Giro last year with Pavel Brutt and Vasil Kiryienka.
Katusha has claimed 12 victories this season, with the last coming from Serguei Ivanov at the Amstel Gold Race. The Russian isn't in Katusha's nine-man Giro team, but the squad will bring Paris-Roubaix runner up Filippo Pozzato, Nikita Eskov, Mikhail Ignatiev, Sergey Klimov, 2005 stage winner Luca Mazzanti, Evgeni Petrov, Christian Pfannberger, Brit Ben Swift and Brutt.
"We will back Pozzato, he is fast," said Parsani. "Then there are others, like Ignatiev and Brutt who can enter into escapes."
Pozzato's room-mate Swift may also get a chance to shine, despite starting his season early in February. Swift finished second at both Nokere Koerse and on País Vasco's stage five.
"Swift is someone who I did not initially think would be doing the Giro, because he has had a big season and is still only 21 years old," said Parsani. "He showed really well at País Vasco and we put him in the [Giro] team. It would be great to see something from him, who knows, he is fast and if he plays his cards right he could win."
The Giro d'Italia kicks off with a team time trial in Venice this Saturday. The larger mountain stages arrive as early as the fourth and fifth day. Challenging medium sized mountain stages in the final week will decide the race's overall winner, before the race finishes in Rome with an individual time trial.