Ekimov: Rodríguez can still win a Grand Tour

Katusha finished third in the WorldTour team ranking while the team's Joaquim Rodríguez won the overall ranking for the second year in a row. "We should never take Joaquim's results for granted," Vyacheslav Ekimov, the general manager of Katusha, told Championat. "It takes a lot of hard work, time and cost to achieve it."

Rodríguez has been a very consistent rider in the Grand Tours with nine top-10 results in the overall classifications of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. The Catalan rider has been on the final podium four times with a second place in the 2012 Giro d'Italia behind Ryder Hesjedal his best result. The Spaniard is 34 years of age, so time is becoming an issue, but Ekimov sees no problem with Rodríguez's age.

"We have seen this year with Chris Horner that winning Grand Tours is still possible when riders are older. Joaquim is in the prime of his life and the Grand Tour finishes in recent years [3rd in Tour and 4th in Vuelta in 2013, 2nd in Giro and 3rd in Vuelta 2012] show this. It angers him and motivates him even more.

"We still have some things to work on and the team is willing to help. Purito doesn't sit idle, either. He is constantly seeking the advice of experts to improve his weak spots. It's not about age. Every rider is different. It's about his attitude and desire to win."

The backbone of the Russian Global Cycling Project in terms of victories are the Spanish riders Rodríguez and Dani Moreno, Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff and Italian Classics specialist Luca Paolini. Ekimov hopes to add more Russian success to that list.

"We have employed coaches from Russia to achieve this. The young riders from our country know that this is a chance they can't miss out on. I won't name names but the coaches have started already."

The Russian wins this year came from riders like Belkov, Kolobnev, Porsev, Tsatevich and the national title for Isaychev. Ekimov sees Tour des Fjords winner Sergei Chernetskii as one of the big talents of the team together with Anton Vorobyev, the 2012 U23 world champion. The Russian has been out of competition since April due to knee problems but Katusha will count on him in 2014.

One of the team's most experienced riders, Denis Menchov, retired this year. Ekimov doesn't exclude the possibility that Menchov will return to cycling to share his experience. "Denis is having a sabbatical this year. After a career not everyone seamlessly moves on to another role. He is very professional and I don't doubt he'll return. It's only a matter of time."

Katusha features a 30-rider roster for 2014, including 18 Russian riders. Only three riders from the 2013 roster have left: Denis Menchov retired and Timofey Kritskiy has moved to RusVelo. Xavier Florencio is also leaving the team but hasn't announced a new team yet.

Katusha signed a trio of riders for 2014 including Egor Silin (from Astana) plus RusVelo's Alexander Rybakov and Pavel Kochetkov.

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