The Katusha-Alpecin saga has taken another turn, as reports suggest that team owner Igor Makarov is determined to keep the Swiss team running next season even if no co-sponsor is found.
French website VeloPro has reported that the businessman would be prepared to part-fund the team with his own money should the team fail to find a replacement for co-sponsor Alpecin. Both the German shampoo company and bike sponsor Canyon are leaving the team at the end of 2019 to focus their attentions on Mathieu van der Poel.
In that scenario, the team would honour the contracts of 11 riders already contracted for 2020, thoguh 13 others have been encouraged to seek deals elsewhere. Last week, team manager José Azevedo stated that riders already under contract have not been freed from their contracts with the team.
Notable riders with deals in place for next season include Enrico Battaglin, Jens Debusschere, Alex Dowsett, Daniel Navarro, Nils Politt and Rick Zabel, while Ilnur Zakarin, Simon Špilak and Nathan Haas are among the riders out of contract. Reports earlier this month suggested that Makarov would be keen to build a youth movement should the team continue.
Makarov was expected to make a decision on his involvement with the team on the first rest day of the Tour de France. The day eventually came and went with no announcement from Katusha, with Azevedo having to inform riders and staff that there were no updates to the situation.
However, Cyclingnews understands that Azevedo was more upbeat when talking to the team than he was in Brussels at the beginning of the Tour. He has previously said that Katusha-Alpecin has done everything required by the UCI to register for the 2020 season.
Rumours about the team's future have swirled throughout the race. Last week, a merger with the Israel Cycling Academy Pro Continental team emerged as one possible option to save the team. Despite today's news, the team are still prioritising the search for a new sponsor.