Team Katusha for 2012 is starting to take shape under the direction of new manager Hans-Michael Holczer. Seven new riders have been signed, and Holczer has now announced the addition of three German staff to the team management including Erik Zabel.
Along with Maxim Belkov (Vacansoleil) and Alexander Kristoff (BMC Racing Team) and Spaniards Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) and Xavier Florencio (Geox-TMC), all previously announced, the team will also be welcoming three 'neos' from the Itera-Katusha feeder team.
Timofey Kritsky, Nikita Eskov and Alexei Tsatevich are all graduating to full professional status after successful apprenticeships with the Continental outfit.
After the team was criticized this year for perhaps favouring Russian riders, Holczer hopes that with fresh eyes he can find a better balance between an all-Russian team and a roster which can win races.
"Everyone understands that Katusha is a Russian team," said Holczer. "Therefore, most riders should be Russian. But strategically to be successful in cycling, the team has to have quality foreign cyclists. There must be a balance."
The German hinted that some of their 'bigger name riders', were still to be announced.
"Right now we are negotiating with one of the most important riders. I cannot say his name. We hope to have a decision soon though."
In staff recruitment, Holczer said the addition of Zabel was an obvious choice after the former sprinter's release from his role at HTC-Highroad.
"Zabel is very familiar with the cycling world and has worked with many strong sprinters, including Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel. He will work with the team starting in winter in a similar role to what he had at Highroad," said Holczer.
Holczer has also brought two long-time assistants with him to Katusha. Michael Rich rode for Gerolsteiner from 1999 to 2006, and was five-time German national time trial champion. He worked as a material adviser to the German team in 2007 and 2008, a position he will also fill at Katusha.
Christian Henn will join the team as a sports director. Henn is another Gerolsteiner alumnus, riding for Telekom during his active career, before joining Gerolsteiner team management. After the team folded he worked for Team Milram.