This year was one to forget for Kim Kirchen, with a serious crash and broken bones in February affecting the whole season. The Luxembourger is off to Russian team Katusha in the coming season, and hopeful of better luck in 2010.
Kirchen, 31, is leaving Columbia-HTC after four seasons. His best year with the team was in 2008, when he recorded six victories, including Flèche Wallonne. However, this year got off to the worst possible start, as a crash in the fourth stage of the Tour of California in February left him with a broken shoulder blade and collarbone. While he recovered in time to win a stage in the Tour de Suisse and took his national time trial title, he never really got back into the swing of things.
He announced on September 1 that he would be riding for Katusha in the new season. “It was the right decision, “ he told Luxembourg newspaper Wort. “This is like a new start, and, logically, it's given me new motivation. I want to know whether I can still do it, and believe I can have a positive 2010.”
Had he stayed with the US-based team, he would have had less responsibility and less freedom to ride for himself, Kirchen said. In his talks with Katusha, “I felt that they believed in me and trusted me. That was very important to me. At some of the big races, the responsibility will be on me, and in the end it was this that convinced me to make the change.”
Kirchen is pleased with his new team, saying “We will surely create some positive headlines. Our opponents should keep an eye on us.
“At the Classics, we are Number One. We will be at the front and then the victories will only be a matter of time.”
The Spring Classics will form part of Kirchen's first set of season objectives. He confirmed that he will ride the Ardennes Classics, and is currently considering starts at Milano-Sanremo, either Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
He will then have a short break before using the Tour de Suisse or the Dauphiné Libéré to prepare for the Tour de France.