Katusha on a contract binge but Kristoff still uncertain - Tour de France news shorts

Izagirre has spinal surgery, Valverde starts PT, Cyclingnews Tour de France podcast

Katusha-Alpecin have almost half their riders out of contract at the end of this season, leaving team manager Jose Azevedo with several large pieces of the puzzle.

Some of the team's biggest names are included in the list of those without a deal for 2018, including Ilnur Zakarin and Alexander Kristoff. However, as the transfer window fast approaches, it seems a few pieces are being set in place.

"We are going to announce in the next days a few riders that we have re-signed in the team," Azevedo told Cyclingnews. One of those that is set to be announced is almost certainly Zakarin, who the team was fairly confident of securing last month.

Kristoff's destiny is still a little less certain, as the Norwegian tosses up between a number of options. The team is keen to keep him, but Kristoff is not yet sure if he will stay or not. Kristoff told Cyclingnews ahead of the Tour de France that he would make his decision during the race, but the team is still in the dark.

"I cannot tell you how it is going to finish because we don't know," he said. "We are in negotiations with Alex. Normally with him he is here with them in the Tour de France and he knows that we will support him 100 per cent and we continue to negotiate with him."

Whatever happens next year, the team hopes that Kristoff will be able to deliver them at least one victory before the Tour de France is up. Kristoff finished 15th in the opening sprint finish, after losing several members of his team in a late crash, but the team still believes he can give them something to cheer about.

"We are confident we think Alex can win a stage here," said Azevedo. "It's not a day that we can really analyse his condition. In the Tour at this level, when you're doing the last kilometres alone and you have to chase wheels then he was on the limit. Circumstances of the race, but we are confident that more chances are coming."

Katusha-Alpecin team manager Jose Azevedo working the phone (TDW Sport)

Successful spinal surgery for Izagirre

Bahrain-Merida's Ion Izagirre underwent successful surgery for an unstable lumbar spine fracture, the result of a crash in the opening time trial of the Tour de France, his team announced on Monday.

The Basque rider was one of three to abandon the Tour de France as a result of crashes in the rain-soaked Düsseldorf time trial. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) suffered a fractured kneecap, and Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) dropped out on stage 2 because of an injury to his ankle from a crash the previous day.

Bahrain-Merida doctor Luca Pollastri said Izagirre's surgery for decompression and stabilization of a lumbar vertebral fracture "went well without any complications".

"Ion will remain in Germany (University Hospital of Düsseldorf) for at least four days before returning back home to Spain to start his recovery," Pollastri said. "Recovery is expected to take a few months. The team's medical staff is in close contact with the surgeon, who performed the operation, and is satisfied with all the feedback. They will accompany the rider through his road to recovery."

Valverde starts physical therapy

Only 36 hours after his crash in the opening time trial of the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde has undergone surgery on his broken kneecap and is already beginning the process of rehabilitation.

The Spaniard posted a video on his Twitter page of himself doing physical therapy exercises, practicing knee flexion and extension with the aid of a medical device.

Valverde is unlikely to race again in 2017 after a blistering start to the season which saw him claim wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Flèche Wallonne, Vuelta a Murcia, and the overall Vuelta a Andalucía, Tour of the Basque Country and Volta a Catalunya titles.

Cyclingnews Tour de France podcast

Stage 3 of the Tour de France saw a debut win for Bora-Hansgrohe via world champion Peter Sagan ahead of Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). Overall favourite Richie Porte (BMC) lit things up on the rising ride into Longwy before the classics riders came to the fore.

A top-ten result for Chris Froome saw the defending champion move into second place behind Sky teammate Geraint Thomas. In this edition of the Cyclingnews podcast, Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson and Procycling's Ed Pickering discuss and analyse the stage, the highlights of the Longway citadel. The podcast also features Froome, Porte and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) with their take on the day's racing action.

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