Team Katusha's transformation from the pride of Russia to a more international set-up continues in 2017 with global shampoo brand Alpecin joining as a co-title sponsor.
Long-standing team manager Viacheslav Ekimov has stepped aside and is now the President of the Russian Cycling Federation, with experienced Sports Director José Azevedo taking the role of Team Manager. The squad continues to enjoy close support from Russian businessman Igor Makarov who founded the Katusha team eight years ago, but the team will now be registered in Switzerland as a sign of its new objectives.
The team’s line-up has also changed to match its goals. The 26-rider roster includes riders from 14 different countries, with nine arrivals for 2017, led by time trial UCI World Champion Tony Martin.
“Forty percent of our riders and staff are new to the team. It can sometimes take time for new people to integrate into the system and understand how things work,” Azevedo said.
“I want us to work together to create one identity as Katusha Alpecin. Our message is that we work with passion, that everyone here loves cycling and we will be fighting to win races.”
As part of Katusha Alpecin, Martin begins a new chapter of his already hugely successful career. The 2017 Tour de France begins in Germany, and Martin is focusing on the opening 13km time trial around the streets of Düsseldorf. He wore the race leader’s yellow jersey in 2015 but pulling on cycling’s most iconic jersey at home in Germany would mean so much more.
Martin will also target the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as he looks for new challenges and new limits. He will also pursue a fifth time trial world title at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway.
In 2016, Ilnur Zakarin confirmed he was Russia’s best Grand Tour rider. He will forgo the Tour de France in 2017 but fight for overall victory in both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Sprinter and Classics rider Alexander Kristoff won 13 races in 2016. Katusha and the Norwegian were happy with the quantity but not the quality after missing out in the Classics and the Tour de France sprints. His successes at Milano-Sanremo (2014) and the Tour of Flanders (2015) indicate the level of his ambitions for 2017.
Katusha Alpecin no longer have Jacopo Guarnieri as key lead-out man for Kristoff but will still have a solid train for the sprints thanks to Michael Mørkøv, Marco Haller, Sven Erik Bystrøm and Reto Hollenstein.
Names to remember on their strong roster include the highly talented Mads Würtz Schmidt, Rik Zabel, promising Belgian Baptiste Planckaert, veterans Rein Taaramäe and Angel Vicioso, plus Colombia’s Jhonatan Restrepo.