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2009 SUMMARY: Quick off the blocks in their first season, the well-backed Russian superteam managed to pick up 23 wins. The most outstanding of these were Sergey Ivanov’s successes at Amstel Gold and the Besançon stage of the Tour de France. Filippo Pozzato also did well, clinching the Italian road title. Unfortunately for Katusha, injuries set Robbie McEwen back and prevented him from starting the Tour. Even worse, ‘Toni’ Colom, a strong early-season performer, tested positive for EPO before the Tour.
LOOKING AHEAD: It would be a surprise if this team didn’t stack up even more wins than it managed last year. It looks stronger on all fronts, particularly in the Classics where Alexandr Kolobnev, Kim Kirchen and Joaquím Rodríguez add huge potential. A recovered McEwen will also be determined to put the sprint upstarts in their place, while the trio of Pozzato, Danilo Napolitano and Serguei Ivanov are likely to pitch in contributions.
THE LINE-UP: There’s no outstanding major tour performer here but Andrei Tchmil now has the riders to win every other race on the calendar. Kirchen and Rodríguez beef up the stage race attack and, along with Kolobnev, Pozzato and Ivanov, they create a Classics squad that should win big this year.
ONE TO WATCH: Rodríguez will finally get his chance to join the Spanish riders aiming to be in contention at the Tour. Among them will be Alejandro Valverde, for whom Rodríguez has worked almost non-stop in recent seasons. Rodríguez’s excellent results last year show why he’s no longer content to play just a supporting role.