Paolini pleased with ProTeam return

Luca Paolini has expressed his relief at returning to the highest level of the sport with Katusha. The Italian last rode at ProTour level in 2007 with Liquigas, where he was implicated in the Operazione Athena doping investigation. He spent the past three seasons at Acqua&Sapone, and was part of Paolo Bettini's Italian team at the 2010 world championships in Geelong.

"It was very important for me to get back into a ProTeam," Paolini told Cyclingnews. "It means that I can again ride the races that I like, such as the Tour of Flanders,Paris-Roubaix and Amstel. It means a lot to me to do those races."

Paolini made his debut in his new colours in Sunday's Tour of Qatar prologue. The flat roads and high winds that characterise the country mean that the race has developed into an important pre-Classics testing ground over the course of its ten-year history, and Paolini felt that even the opening 2.5km time trial served a dry run of sorts for April.

"It was a difficult course because you had to handle the bike well," he said. "And then all those little cobbles and the wind made it even harder to control things. It was a strange kind of test as it was so short and there was so much wind. Plus on your first day back racing, you need to get accustomed to the effort again."

While Paolini and his Katusha teammates will be looking to grab an early win in Qatar, his main objective from the race will be to build form for the Classics.

"Above all I want to see where I am in my preparation in regard to other riders," he said. "Here there are a lot of very strong riders that you can compare yourself against, it's a good testing ground. Of course I'd also like to help a teammate win a stage or maybe have a go myself."

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.