Viatcheslav Ekimov does not want Katusha's team captain Joaquim Rodríguez to ride the Tour de France next season, but the Spaniard will have his opportunities to shine in the Italian and Spanish Grand Tours. "The course does not suit Purito. The route in the north of France is the same as Paris-Roubaix and it's not suitable for him." Rodríguez will focus instead on the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España. "We will aim for the overall classification in those races," Ekimov told R-sport.
The objectives for Katusha in the Tour de France change from riding for the overall classification to hunting stage wins. "If we go to France without Purito, this creates chances for other riders," said Ekimov. "We will try to win stages and emphasize the green jersey classification [with Alexander Kristoff]. He will get two men to help him in the sprint. And we will have several riders with a free role to go for stage wins."
Katusha had its first team training camp of the season and the initial race programmes are drawn. "Everything is going well. We have all our equipment and 90% of the races are confirmed for next season. Now the race programmes are prepared and they will only be changed if the situation requires it."
Rodríguez's main target will be the Giro d'Italia. He'll contest the Ardennes Classics but will skip the Tour de Romandie in order to do a training session in the Alps. "We will fight for the top places in the overall in those two races: Giro and Vuelta."
Katusha has two winners of this year's Classics on board with Dani Moreno (Flèche Wallonne) and Rodríguez (Il Lombardia). The two Spaniards have been on the same team since 2008 with the exception of 2010 when Moreno rode with Omega Pharma-Lotto. "We plan on separating Purito and Dani Moreno more," Ekimov said of the Spanish duo. "We think Moreno can be a team captain himself but it will hard to separate them. Moreno has to learn he can do well without Joaquim."
Moreno and Rodríguez will be important riders in the Spanish World Championship team, but Katusha hopes that their Russian riders will step up as well. "Just like Alexandre Kolobnev," said Ekimov. "The Worlds will be an important goal for 2014. We will build his season around the race in Ponferrada.
"We are a Russian team and want to keep investing in our national riders. The foreign riders do their job and they earn points to keep us in the WorldTour but we want to see that Katusha grows in popularity in Russia itself. We want to make our project more interesting for young [domestic] riders."
While Joaquim Rodríguez has been linked to Fernando Alonso's team for 2015, Ekimov downplays the speculation. "I don't know where that rumour comes from," Ekimov said. "Well maybe because he was on the race track with Alonso and Peter Sagan. But Rodríguez himself is not thinking about it. He still has a contract [for 2014 and 2015]."
Just like Ekimov expressed earlier, he hopes to see his friend Denis Menchov join Katusha. "Denis is on a sabbatical [after he ended his career earlier this year]. He is now working at a local bike school with young riders as a trainer and consultant. He needs to feel wanted and needed in order not to get lost. Let's see what happens in the foreseeable future to see what opportunities we can give him to share his experience with the younger generations."
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