After an unhappy parenthesis at Geox-TMC, Denis Menchov returns to the WorldTour in 2012 in the colours of Katusha, where his season will be built around the Tour de France. Menchov was left without a team when Geox announced its decision to withdraw from sponsorship after just one season, but he was snapped up by Katusha.
“In the past people had spoken a lot about my possible arrival at Katusha,” Menchov told Velochrono. “Although they had a bit of a difficult start, Katusha has finally been able to lay the foundations to progress and become a top-level team. I think that it was the right moment to go there. And then, let’s not forget: I’m Russian.”
Based in Pamplona in Spain, Menchov has spent the whole of his professional career riding for foreign teams, and he admitted that the idea of leading his home nation’s flagship team was one that attracted him.
“It’s a very important aspect and it’s given me a lot of motivation,” he said. “Since 1999, I’ve travelled all over the world, but I’ve laid down roots in Spain. And I have to say that I have missed mother Russia a little bit. I’m still going to continue being abroad a lot, but the national imprint of the Katusha project stimulates me. It’s an honour that finally I am considered as the most important representative of this movement.”
Menchov’s primary target for 2012 is the Tour de France, a race he missed this year after Geox-TMC failed to secure one of the wildcard invitations. Given the arrival of Oscar Freire and Andrei Tchmil’s departure from the manager’s role, it remains to be seen if Katusha will continue its policy of fielding an all-Russian team at the Tour, but Menchov believes his key support will come from his fellow countrymen.
“The team is in its planning phase,” he said. “Two riders will be key: Vladimir Gusev and Yuriy Trofimov. The others will be added to the list during the season.”
The main sticking point of Menchov’s negotiations with Katusha were his efforts to bring two riders with him from the defunct Geox team, Dmitriy Kozontchuk and Mauricio Ardila. The pair will ultimately join Menchov at Katusha in 2013, with Kozontchuk spending next season at the Itera-Katusha Continental team, while Ardila will ride for one Colombia-Coldeportes for the year.
“They are two guys who I’ve known since my time at Rabobank. A daily link was born there and we’ve trained together in Pamplona for the last six years. It’s a special link,” Menchov said.
In any case, Menchov seems pleased to put his Geox experience behind him. The team failed in its bid to secure WorldTour status, was overlooked for a Tour de France invitation and eventually disbanded after just one season in the peloton.
“It was disappointing, although, in the end, we even had some good results,” he said. “But the team fell victim to some dynamics that I didn’t really understand. There was immense disappointment following the Geox company’s decision. It decided to abandon ship but didn’t announce it until November.”
On the road, Menchov had a mixed season, in spite of his top 10 finishes in both the Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia. While his performance in Italy (8th overall) was a disappointment, Menchov claimed that he had the form to win the Vuelta, but rode to help his teammate and eventual winner Juan José Cobo and reached Madrid in 5th place overall.
“On the Angliru, I said to myself ‘I’m the Denis of the 2009 Giro!’” he said. “I finished the race growing in form. I could perhaps even have won that Vuelta, but I preferred to help the team defend Juan José Cobo’s red jersey.”