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Denis Menchov (Katusha Team)
Freire heads up sprint challenge for Russian outfit
Katusha is the latest team to release details of its nine-man squad for the 2012 Tour de France. The Russian team will be led by Denis Menchov, who is its main contender for the general classification, while fellow veteran Oscar Freire will head up the challenge for sprint honours.
Katusha drew a blank at last year's Tour and will be hopeful that its twin challenge will bring more success this time round. Freire is a former winner of the green jersey, having won it in the colours of Rabobank in 2008, while Menchov's Grand Tour pedigree is an impressive one - the Russian is a two-time former winner of the Vuelta a Espana (2005 and 2007) and a former winner of the Giro d'Italia (2009). He also won the young riders classification at the 2003 Tour.
"It's a huge responsibility that gives me high motivations," Menchov said.
"It will be my first big stage race with the team of my country, so I'll give my best in order to win. Moreover, the Tour de France is the only grand tours that I haven't won: it's not a secret that this year it was my main goal, it would be the crowning achievement of my career, so that's why I look forward to start."
Menchov implied that he had some input into the finalisation of the squad and also referred to Freire's consistent from in the first half of the season. The 36-year-old Spaniard has won stages at both the Tour Down Under and the Vuelta a Andalucia in 2012, while he also posted top five finishes at E3 Harelbeke, Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race.
"The team is great: we selected the riders very carefully, I talked a lot with the sporting directors, so I think that's the best possible team bearing in mind our shape and the profile of the competition," Menchov said. "We have good domestiques and during this season Freire has proved to be in good shape. I'm very satisfied with the final roster, and I'm sure we will obtain some great results."
Katusha team for the 2012 Tour de France: Giampaolo Caruso, Oscar Freire, Vladimir Gusev, Joan Horrach, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Denis Menchov, Luca Paolini, Yuriy Trofimov and Eduard Vorganov.