After months of discussion and years of planning, Russia's first ProTour team, Katusha, was presented to the press in the headquarters of oil and gas company Itera yesterday. It came just days after Oleg Tinkov announced he has ceased his relationship with the team.
Guests of honour included Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President of the the Republic of Moldavia, Vladimir Voronin. Itera President Igori Makarov announced that, "Finally, Russian cycling has stepped into the professional realm. We have waited a long time for this moment, and it was necessary to overcome a lot of barriers, problems and resistance on the way."
He added that Katusha is "a combination of the social, economic and political components expressed in sports," and that it "is a powerful project supported by serious partners aimed at developing cycling in Russia, creating possibilities for young riders and a representation of the glory of our native land."
Team manager Andrei Tchmil, who enjoyed bountiful success as a professional rider, most notably his overall victory in the 1999 World Cup, spoke of both the sporting and business stability offered in the ProTour's newest squad. "In Katusha we managed to harmoniously combine the skill of riders who have been at the top for a long time and have already shown themselves to be capable at the most prestigious races in the world, with young guys who will take their first steps as professional riders," he said.
The Russian native, who won the 1994 edition of Paris-Roubaix, the 1999 Milano-Sanremo and has most recently been the minister for sports in Moldavia, guaranteed the future of the team at a time when sponsorship has been in decline. "The economic crisis of the world will not be reflected in Katusha. We have reliable partners, who have stability and power and guarantee the future of both the team, and the project as a whole."