Cyclingnews understands that the Israel Cycling Academy is in talks with the Katusha-Alpecin team to take over the Russian team's WorldTour status for 2020 when new three-year licences are awarded by the UCI.
The Katusha-Alpecin team has yet to confirm its plan for the future, with team owner and key backer Igor Makarov expected to make a final decision on his involvement on the first rest of the Tour de France next Tuesday. Hair shampoo sponsor Alpecin and bike sponsor Canyon are unlikely to extend their sponsorship with Katusha. Both have been linked to the future plans of Mathieu van der Poel and his Corendon Circus team.
Team manager Jose Azevedo refused to comment on the future of the team at the start of stage 4 of the Tour de France. However, L'Equipe reported that the riders were told on Tuesday night that the team will not continue in 2020 and that they are free to look for other teams. Team leader Ilnur Zakarin has already been linked to CCC Team.
Cyclingnews understands that the Israel Cycling Academy is keen to secure WorldTour status as soon as possible and so secure invitations to the major races and especially the Tour de France. Thanks to the financial support of Canada-born billionaire Sylvan Adams, the Israel Cycling Academy secured a place in last year's Giro d'Italia that began in Israel. However, they were overlooked for a place in the 2019 Tour de France.
The current Professional Continental team will not score enough UCI ranking points to climb into the top 20 ranked teams and thus secure a place in the 2020 WorldTour, leaving a take over or merger the only way to be part of cycling's premier league next year. Cyclingnews understands that the Israel Cycling Academy would only agree to a deal if it took control of the new team and kept a clear Israeli identity.
L'Equipe claims the current Katusha-Alpecin management have not started the WorldTour application process for 2020-2022. However, under UCI rules there is still time for Israel Cycling Academy to take over Katusha-Alpecin and secure a place in the WorldTour. It is unclear how many of the current 23-rider roster would be retained in the event of a take-over or merger or how it would impact the riders under contract with the current Israel Cycling Academy team. Israel cycling Academy declined to comment for this report.
Riders released from Katusha-Alpecin contracts
L'Equipe reported Wednesday that Katusha-Alpecin will close at the end of the 2019 season with riders apparently being told they have been released from their existing contracts to find new teams elsewhere.
It was reported that management from the Russian-Swiss team informed the riders during a team dinner following stage 4 of the Tour de France on Tuesday evening that the team would be shutting down and that they were free to engage in new team contract negotiations.
However, Cyclingnews spoke with Katusha-Alpecin's press officer along with an agent of one rider currently competing at the Tour de France, and both have said the reports in the French news outlet were not true and that there is still a 50 per cent chance that the team still has a future in professional cycling.
Cyclingnews reported on Monday that the future of Katusha-Alpecin looked uncertain and that rider contract extensions had been put on hold. The team had intended to confirm its future on Tuesday, the first rest day of the Tour de France.
The team’s future had already looked on unstable grounds after co-sponsor Alpecin announced it would end its sponsorship at the end of the season. It was then reported in the Italian press that Canyon, along with Alpecin, had decided to support Mathieu van der Poel, and apparently would build a new team around the Dutch talent.
In addition, general manager Jose Azevedo confirmed that contract discussions with the team GC leader Ilnur Zakarin had been put on hold, with the rider being linked to CCC for next year.
Check back at Cyclingnews for more details as this story unfolds.
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