The Katusha-Alpecin riders and staff have begun the process of building their 2018 team bonds with a training camp in Mallorca, taking the time to forge the relationships and machines that will carry the 26 riders and their entourage through the year.
Seven riders are new to the team this year, including Marcel Kittel, Ian Boswell, Alex Dowsett, Nathan Haas, Steff Cras, Matteo Fabro and Willie Smit. The team are using the important pre-season camp to adjust to Kittel, who replaces sprinter Alexander Kristoff. Kittel will join Ilnur Zakarin and Tony Martin as team leaders.
"We have a core team that will be stronger than last year, and with the exception of Alexander Kristoff they have all continued with us," team general manager José Azevedo said in a statement released by the team. "We need to thank Alex for the six years he raced with Katusha and all of the victories he brought to us.
"Now we move forward with another big sprinter in Marcel Kittel, and I see him currently as the best sprinter in the world, as evidenced by his five stage wins in this year's Tour de France," Azevedo continued.
"We have riders to work for him and prepare the lead-out. I think this group of riders will support Marcel in the best way. We also have a good rider who is useful in the preparation for the sprint, Alex Dowsett. We need to see improvement in our time trials, as well as our team time trials and I think we will see this help come from him."
Kittel said 2017 proved to be a big year for him after a difficult 2016 season, and he hopes to continue his upward trend with his new team.
"My next big target will be getting used to my new teammates and see how we work together – that's not even thinking about winning yet," Kittel said in a statement released by the team.
"Having a great lead-out team on this international Team Katusha-Alpecin is a good motivator for me. I think this is a good fit and I feel we can achieve something together. I feel very comfortable here."
Katusha-Alpecin For 2018: Maxim Belkov (Rus), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Ian Boswell (USA), Steff Cras (Bel), Alex Dowsett (GBr), Matteo Fabbro (Ita), José Gonçalves (Por), Nathan Haas (Aus), Marco Haller (Aut), Reto Hollenstein (Sui), Robert Kišerlovski (Cro), Marcel Kittel (Ger), Pavel Kochetkov (Rus), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus), Maurits Lammertink (Ned), Tiago Machado (Por), Tony Martin (Ger), Marco Mathis (Ger), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Nils Politt (Ger), Jhonatan Restrepo (Col), Simon Špilak (Slo), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den), Willie Smit (RSA), Rick Zabel (Ger), Ilnur Zakarin (Rus)