The future of the Katusha WorldTour team has moved a step closer to safety with team boss Viatcheslav Ekimov confirming to Cyclingnews that he had a verbal agreement with his title sponsor for the next two years. The existing Katusha deal expires at the end of 2015 but Ekimov has already re-signed a number of key riders, including Alexander Kristoff.
Tour de France stage 3 winner Joaquim Rodríguez has not yet signed a new deal but Ekimov also confirmed that the Spaniard is likely to stay for one additional season with salary terms yet to be agreed. On top of that, Ekimov added that the team were closing in on additional sponsorship for the future.
“Were still working on it. They aren’t easy times but we are working on bringing in additional sponsors very soon, maybe even before the end of the Tour de France,” Ekimov told Cyclingnews.
“Katusha will remain the title sponsor for the next few years. We’re having good conversations with them and we have verbal agreement but there’s still something to be put on the paper, drafted and signed. Then on top of that we’re looking for additional sponsor, and they might already be associated with the Katusha project.”
Rodríguez, who won atop the Mur de Huy on stage 3, and is a former podium finisher at the Tour de France, turned 36 in May but Ekimov has offered his team leader an additional season at WorldTour level, well aware that the Spaniard remains among the best climbers in the sport.
“With Purito we’re still at a good point and we’re talking. We have an agreement on some parts of the deal but we just have to work on some other parts of the contracts. He will sign and it will be a one-year deal. We just have to agree salary terms and a few small things.”
Katusha had been linked to both Rigoberto Urán and Richie Porte earlier in the spring with both riders out of contract. However, it’s understood that Porte will move to either Etixx-QuickStep or BMC – most likely the latter according to our sources close to Team Sky – while Ekimov admitted he had not approached either rider.
“I’m working on Rodríguez. If for some reason we don’t reach an agreement then we’ll look around.”
Along with re-signing Rodríguez the team are expected to bring in between two or three neo-professionals but the future of Rodríguez’s longterm teammate Daniel Moreno looks far from certain, with Ekimov admitting that the Spaniard will not be offered a new deal.
"We’re looking at a few young guys, up to three neo-pros. Dani is out of contract and we’re not talking to him. It probably depends but I think Moreno should try somewhere else if he wants to continue.”