Joaquim Rodriguez was hailed as the team leader at the Katusha presentation in Brescia, as the Russian squad tried to put on a brave face and positive spin on their 2013 season despite the UCI refusing to give them WorldTour licence for ethical reasons.
Rodriguez is one of the smartest riders in the peloton and also tried to stay optimistic about his 2013 season when speaking to Cyclingnews. Yet his anger at the UCI and the Katusha team management was evident.
"We as riders aren't directly involved, it's a problem between the team and the UCI but we've had a lot to think about this week because Katusha has been left out of the WorldTour. They've told us the reasons why now but now were waiting for a more serious explanation from the team," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews.
"We're not worried because Katusha is a good team and we all focused on having a great season (in 2013). But at the same we're all a bit lost because we don't know what's going to happen."
Rodriguez told Gazzetta dello Sport that is agent Angel Edo has had several offers from other teams. But he insisted he will stay loyal to Katusha, at least until the Court for Arbitration for Sport overturns the UCI Licence Commission's decision and rules that the team deserves a WorldTour place.
"We're all free (to change teams) until the CAS decides something. I hope things don’t get drawn out too long. I'm 33 years old and I want to ride the best races in the world. I hope that Katusha can guarantee me those races. I feel part of this team, it's my team too in lots of ways," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews.
Rodriguez won Fleche-Wallonne, Il Lombardia and went close to victory in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta España in 2012. He will begin the 2013 season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina but Katusha will no longer ride the Tour Down Under and is scrambling to secure invitations to other races and redesign its 2013 calendar.
"I feel I deserve to be a WorldTour rider and that the team deserves its place in the WorldTour. It's irritating because I'd chosen a great 2013 calendar and was thinking of going for the Tour de France," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews.
"I was also looking forward to Tirreno-Adriatico, the Classics and the Tour of Romandie. I had a great 2012 and wanted to carry on doing well in the biggest races. I'm struggling to understand why the world's number one rider has to ask organisers if he can ride heir races."
"I don’t think we deserve to have to chase after wild card invitations all year. I hope a solution is found as soon as possible, that they tell is we're in the WorldTour or not."
The Katusha team's lawyers have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and submitted a second appeal on Thursday after the UCI issued the reasoned decision of the Licence Commission, revealing that several doping cases, a lack of internal control and an anti-doping culture were the principal reasons why the team as refused a licence for 2013.
An interim verdict is expected on January 10, which could allow Katusha to be part of the WorldTour until a final verdict is reached. However it seems the UCI is ready to defend its decision with determination and so the legal battle could drag on for months.
"For sure the UCI has their reasons and the team will try and appeal but I don't think it's such a serious problem that it can't be overcome," Rodriguez said.
"If there's a problem, the UCI has to say what it is and Katusha has to sort it out. It might be hard but we're all one family and we’ll sort it out. I just want to know what races we can do because I've got to know about my future."