The Katusha team is undergoing a make over for 2017. It will no longer be a Russian team lead by successful but veteran rider. Joaquin Rodriguez will retire at the end of the year and the team is working to become "more and more international", as general manager Viacheslav Ekimov said during the Tour de France, adding: "It's very important to keep our place within the peloton".
Mads Würtz Schmidt, the hugely talented 22-year-old Dane, is one of the new faces of the revamped Katusha for 2017. The time trial expert will join his countryman Michael Morkov, one of the key-domestiques in the team next season, along with other newcomers that will soon be announced. Katusha is expected to announce a new second sponsor for 2017 and has already confirmed that Tony Martin will join the team from Etixx-QuickStep.
Cyclingnews talked to Würtz Schmidt at the start of the Tour de l'Avenir, the prestigious under 23 stage race where he captured a stage last year and hopes to win again in the time trial on Tuesday.
"I like to take my time to do the right things," he told Cyclingnews. The blonde-hair rouleur turned down several offers at the end of 2015 despite winning a second world time title after his 2011 success.
"I wanted to stay one more year at a Continental level (he is part of Team Trefor) to achieve some more goals, win more targeted races. Now I think this is the right time and the right team to move to."
A new Danish generation
Würtz Schmidt is joining a WorldTour squad after a career that began in 2002 when he was just eight. His early start was natural because all his family are cyclists and his father Steen Schmidt was part of the MTB National team in the nineties.
Würtz Schmidt is part of a new generation of young Danish riders who are blossoming on the international stage. Others include Mads Pedersen, who will ride for Trek-Segafredo in 2017, and Soren Kragh Andersen, already a member of Giant-Alpecin.
Like his countrymen Würtz Schmidt is essentially a rouleur and a Classics rider, having won the Junior edition Paris-Roubaix in 2012.
"But I can perform in various types of racing," Würtz-Schmidt pointed out. His victory overall at the Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux, in Belgium, showed he can also do well in the Ardennes climbs.
His last goal as an under 23 rider is a third world time trial title. He will skip the European Championships in Brittany in mid-September but is focused on the flat time trial in Qatar.
"After that, I think I will be ready to turn pro," he said.