Tour confirms Katusha's strength says Tchmil

Team Katusha confirmed its strength at the Tour de France said the team's general manager Andrea Tchmil on Sunday in Paris. The Russian squad's stage win and two placings in the top three were good news after June's problems.

Russian champion Sergei Ivanov won stage 14 to Besançon after being part of an escape group all day.

"All wins are important, above all one in the Tour de France with its high-level of competition. It is also a confirmation the team's and Ivanov's quality," Tchmil told Cyclingnews.

Russia's Katusha team was also present in several escapes through Mikhail Ignatiev. He was part of the first successful escape of the Tour in stage five to Perpignan, but finished second to winner Thomas Voeckler. He finished the Tour strongly with a third place behind Alberto Contador in the Annecy time trial, stage 18.

Italian Champion Filippo Pozzato expected more from himself than the sixth place in stage six to Barcelona, his best result of the Tour. Tchmil said the team will adjust his schedule in 2010 to give Pozzato a greater chance of winning.

"He still has to grow," said Tchmil. "He raced well in the beginning of the year in the Classics. He wanted to be at the top in the Giro and at the top in the Tour, but unfortunately he can't be at the front in every race and win on every occasion."

Katusha welcomed the Tour's successes after problems with doping and contracts. The International Cycling Union (UCI) found both Christian Pfannberger and Antonio Colom positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO) in the months prior to the Tour.

The team also had internal struggles in June when some of its riders refused to sign a new agreement that would have them pay five times their salary if caught doping. Robbie McEwen first refused and later signed, but Belgian Gert Steegmans continues to refuse to sign the agreement.

Katusha is yet to resolve the matter with Steegmans. He has not raced since the Dauphiné Libéré, June 7 to 14.

Tchmil said he based Steegmans' Tour non-selection on his performances. "He was not allowed to race the Tour because he went slowly from the beginning of the year. He did not have condition to win, nor finish."

Katusha's next big race is Spain's one-day race, Clásica San Sebastián. Ivanov and Pozzato are part of the eight-man team.

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