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Katusha's Tinkov confirms sprinter McEwen and other big names

Robbie McEwen will leave Silence Lotto for Katusha

Robbie McEwen will leave Silence Lotto for Katusha (Image credit: AFP)

Tour champ Carlos Sastre in the mix?

By Gregor Brown

Oleg Tinkov, Team President of Tinkoff Credit Systems and its Katusha incarnation, confirmed the signing of sprinting star Robbie McEwen for the 2009 and 2010 seasons today. Italian Filippo Pozzato, Belgian Gert Steegmans and Russians Vladimir Karpets and Alexandre Botcharov will join the 36-year-old Australian, winner of 12 Tour de France stages, in the Russian team for next year.

"We signed him [McEwen] for two years. He is a great sprinter and I want him to be a mentor in the team. He is very professional – perfect with his age and experience. He is a great person, as well as a cyclist," Tinkov said to Cyclingnews.

"I'm looking forward to the new experience with this very international team," McEwen confirmed to Cyclingnews of Team Katusha. "While remaining motivated to gain results in the big races, I also see myself as a mentor to the other sprinters in the team like Steegmans and [Kenny] Dehaes, and also passing on my experience to the younger riders – I'm sure we can form a very good sprint train."

Tinkov impressed McEwen with his love of the sport. "His passion for cycling and winner's mentality convinced me to sign with Katusha."

Tinkov is pleased with how Katusha formed, backed on the two-year Tinkoff experience. Though it signed Karpets, winner of the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Suisse in 2007, Katusha still would like a well-established general classification contender.

"We are still talking to [Tour de France winner Carlos] Sastre; I hope we can persuade him to be a member of our team," Tinkov said. "Budget? We have the budget to sign two riders like Sastre."

Sastre, 33-year-old from Spain, is without a contract for 2009. He is linked with Cervélo TestTeam for the coming season.

Newly announced directeur sportif, Serge Parsani, will help guide McEwen, Pozzato, Steegmans, Karpets and Botcharov.

The roster now contains the following riders (current team in parentheses):
Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Antonio Colom (Astana), Kenny Dehaes (Topsport Vlaanderen), Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne), Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale)